Could this be describing a "tension headache"?

A throbbing, aching pain that starts at the back of the head and finishes just below the shoulder line.

I thought tension headaches start and sometimes end on the forehead, sometimes traveling behind the ears, and was more of a tightening.

  • 2
    Where did you get this description? Sep 1, 2016 at 23:15

2 Answers 2


Yes, a tension-type headache is more of a pressing, tightening quality, and mild to moderate intensity. There is no throbbing. There is also no nausea. It is usually bilateral, so usually it is on both sides of the head. The forehead is possible...but not the only option.

In contrast, a migraine is more of a throbbing kind of headache, and begins or stays unilateral.

I based my descriptions off "Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases" from The Great Courses, presented by Roy Benaroch. I referred to Mayo Clinic to double check my answer.


Diagnostic criteria for tension-type headache, as in migraine, is a composition of symptoms and associated features, although throbbing type headache is part of the migraine criteria, it could appear in tension headaches.

Diagnostic criteria:

  1. At least 10 episodes of headache occurring on <1 day per month on average (<12 days per year) and fulfilling criteria B-D

  2. Lasting from 30 minutes to 7 days

  3. At least two of the following four characteristics:

bilateral location

pressing or tightening (non-pulsating) quality

mild or moderate intensity

not aggravated by routine physical activity such as walking or climbing stairs

  1. Both of the following:

no nausea or vomiting

no more than one of photophobia or phonophobia

  1. Not better accounted for by another ICHD-3 diagnosis.

Therefore, having throbbing type headaches is not exclusion criteria for having tension-type headache

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