Not Tonight Darling – I’ve got a Tension Headache!

The actual cause of tension headaches is still relatively unknown, however, the two main triggers are physical straining and emotional stress, in all its forms. Because we’re living in a time where there’s more stress than we know what to do with, it’s hardly surprising there’s an increase in men experiencing these types of headaches.

Here we look at what sparks tension headaches, prevention, and possible treatment.

Most Common Type of Headache in both Men and Women

Tension Headaches ExplainedMen still get off lightly when compared to women. Research has shown that females are twice-as-likely to suffer tension-type headaches than their male counterparts (see video, right)

The occurrence of tension headaches can be suffered at any age, although they do tend to peak in men during middle-age, somewhere around early to mid 40’s, one report suggests.

Man-up and Reduce the Pain!

Leeds Metropolitan University researchers had a study published in the European Journal of Pain (lead by Dr. Osama Tashani and PhD student Oras Alabas), that revealed masculinity increases pain threshold. This probably explains why men don’t suffer with physical hurt as much as women.

According to this masculinity threshold study, the more masculine men are, or even those who believe themselves to be more macho, are less sensitive to pain and discomfort than those men of average manliness or high femininity. What this means in effect is that a manly man should have fewer experiences of tension headaches.

Excessive Exertion is the Culprit

It will come as no surprise that ‘tension’ is the primary trigger for tension headaches. Tension is produced by muscle contractions at the back of the neck, the forehead, scalp, and face.

This tightening is produced by emotional stress and or physical straining. Put simply, tension headaches are the product of tightening muscles caused by physical or mental overexertion.

Types of Tension Headache

There are 2 types of tension headache; periodic (‘episodic’ less than 15 days per month), or daily (‘chronic’ 15 plus days per month).

1.) Episodic Tension Headaches

The episodic tension headache is best described as a mild to moderate persistent band-like pain, tightness, or pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck.

2.) Chronic Tension Headaches

Chronic tension headaches, on the other hand, come and go over a protracted period of time. The pain of the chronic type is generally one of throbbing and affects the front, top, or sides of the head. You can read more about this at WebMD.


Although there are numerous reasons why an individual might suffer with tension type headaches, understanding the triggers can go some way in helping to prevent them from occurring to begin with. Common triggers are:

  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Emotional or mental stress (including depression)
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Inadequate rest
  • Overexertion
  • Poor posture


A research study revealed that the most effective way to treat ongoing tension headaches is combination of medication (temporary cure), and behavioural management (potential prevention). Medications recommended by a medical professional may include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain relievers

Please leave any comments you may have on this topic at the bottom of this page.

About Andy Aitch

Musician, writer, netentrepreneur and founder of, the site created for uniting middle-aged men the world over.

Motto: a man is not old until his dreams become his regrets

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Readers Comments

    Eastend Pete says:

    I don’t dispute headaches are very real in some geezers, and gooseberry puddins, but I also think many more are either psychological or lame excuses used to get out of doing a bit of Captain Kirk or to go somewhere. Bad backs is another invisible illness used as a cop-out by some!

    Eastend Pete

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