Stress Headache Symptoms


Stress headaches, which are also referred to as tension or tension-type headaches, are a common condition that can affect anyone and often result from emotional or physical stress. Fortunately, the symptoms of stress headaches are manageable; however, headaches that develop after a head injury, are accompanied by bleeding from the head or feel like the worst headache of your life require prompt medical evaluation. Consider this information derived from the Mayo Clinic, the National Library of Medicine and the American College of Physicians about the symptoms of stress headaches.

Head Pain

People with stress headaches may have pain all over the head, rather than pain that is localized to a particular place on the head. The pain may extend into the area of the temples and forehead, down to the ears and down the back of the neck. People with stress headaches may describe the feeling of pain as having their head in a vice grip.


Stress headaches may cause people to have difficulty with falling or staying asleep. Getting comfortable while resting may be troublesome when the entire head is throbbing with pain. People who suffer from stress headaches may also awaken during the night as a result of the pain.

Muscle Aches

Muscle aches may develop in the upper body in people with stress headaches. People may notice tight muscles in their shoulders and upper back and may feel as if they have knots in their muscles. People with stress headaches may unconsciously tighten the neck muscles or the muscles of the jaws, which can lead to neck and jaw pain.

Sensory Changes

People with stress headaches may be sensitive to changes in the weather or indoor temperatures for the duration of the headache. Those who are exposed to bright lights or intense sunlight may have difficulty adjusting their eyes while they have a headache. People with stress headaches may also be more sensitive to or have less tolerance for loud noises.


People with stress headaches may have tenderness of the scalp, which may extend to the skin on the neck and upper back. The temples, face and teeth of people with stress headaches may be tender or more sensitive for the duration of the headache. People who experience symptoms such as tenderness may find relief with massage, acupuncture or warm compresses that relax the muscles.

Upset Stomach

People with stress headaches may lose their appetite for the duration of the headache, which could be several days. Stress headaches that are triggered by being nervous or spending a long time in a hot room may be accompanied by nausea, although vomiting is rare. People with stress headaches may find that having a light meal of bland food helps to settle the stomach and can prevent blood sugar from dropping too low, which can worsen head pain.

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