Tension headache classification

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sabeeh Islam, MBBS[2]


Tension-type headaches can be episodic or chronic. Episodic tension-type headaches are defined as tension-type headaches occurring less than 15 days a month, whereas chronic tension headaches occur 15 days or more a month for at least 6 months. Tension-type headaches can last from minutes to days or even months, though a typical tension headache lasts 4-6 hours.


Tension headache may be classified into 3 subtypes depending upon the frequency and duration of episodes:[1] This classification is based upon underlying pathophysiology, impact on quality of life, and the treatment approach. Each of the 3 subtype is futher classified as with or without pericranial muscle tenderness.

  • Infrequent episodic
    • Headache episodes < 1 day a month
  • Frequent episodic
    • Headache episodes 1 to 14 days a month
  • Chronic
    • Headaches 15 or more days a month


  1. "Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS) The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition". Cephalalgia. 38 (1): 1–211. January 2018. doi:10.1177/0333102417738202. PMID 29368949.

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