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Tension-type headache in adults: Preventive treatment

Frederick R Taylor, MD
Section Editor
Jerry W Swanson, MD, MHPE
Deputy Editor
John F Dashe, MD, PhD


Tension-type headache (TTH) is the most common headache in the population. Yearly prevalence rates for episodic TTH are approximately 80 percent in men and women. Due to its high prevalence in the population, TTH causes a high degree of disability. Despite its frequency, few placebo-controlled preventive therapeutic trials have been conducted in TTH. Different methods for efficacy measurement characterize these trials, making it difficult to compare results among studies [1]. More research in the nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment of TTH is urgently needed [2].

The available, proven, and speculative preventive therapies of TTH in adults are reviewed here. Acute treatment of TTH in adults is presented separately. (See "Tension-type headache in adults: Acute treatment".)

Other aspects of TTH are discussed elsewhere. (See "Tension-type headache in adults: Pathophysiology, clinical features, and diagnosis".)


The preventive therapy of TTH ranges from drugs to nonpharmacologic therapies such as behavioral and cognitive interventions. The goals of preventive therapy in TTH are reasonably extrapolated from those devised for migraine headache [3]. These include the following:

Reduce attack frequency, severity, and duration

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 16, 2016.
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