Are Tension Type Headaches and Migraines the Same Thing?

Ultimately the answer to this question is no, however there are some presenting symptoms which may confuse people as to whether they are experiencing a headache or a migraine.

Tension Headache Sufferer

Tension type headaches (TTH) are the most common form of headache2.  They are usually mild to moderate in pain intensity and feel like a tight band across the forehead2. Those that suffer from TTH do not usually experience any nausea or visual impairment and pain will not get worse with physical activity. Tight neck, shoulder and head muscles have been found to contribute to the intensity and/or longevity of pain experienced.

Migraines typically hurt on one side of the head, described as a throbbing or pulsating sensation that last anywhere from 4-72 hours. They are classed as either; migraine with aura (visual involvement) or migraine without aura. Migraines are of moderate to severe pain intensity and sufferers usually experience nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or sound and can often start while asleep. Migraines are exacerbated by physical activity and can be triggered by hunger or odour.

Both types of headache are triggered by stress and decreased sleep, which can lead to tight neck and shoulder muscles2. Studies that have been conducted have shown that the majority of migraine patients experience neck and shoulder pain in conjunction with their headaches3. There is also some evidence that poor posture, anxiety and depression can be linked to causes of headaches2.

Chiropractic has been evidenced to help some people decrease intensity and severity of migraines and headaches of cervicogenic origin1. Techniques used involve; muscle stretching and strengthening, manipulation of the cervical and thoracic spine, tactics to help decrease stress and the prescription of exercise techniques.



  1. Bryans, R., Descarreaux, M., Duranleau, M., Marcoux, H., Potter, B., Ruegg, R., & White, E. (2011). Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics34(5), 274-289.

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