Tension-type headache (TTH) is the most common form of headache, and chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) is one of the most neglected and difficult types of headache to treat. The pathogenesis of TTH is multifactorial and varies between forms and individuals. Peripheral mechanisms (myofascial nociception) and central mechanisms (sensitisation and inadequate endogenous pain control) are intermingled: the former predominate in infrequent and frequent TTH, whereas the latter predominate in CTTH. Acute therapy is effective for episodes of TTH, whereas preventive treatment--which is indicated for frequent and chronic TTH--is, on average, not effective. For most patients with CTTH, the combination of drug therapies and non-drug therapies (such as relaxation and stress management techniques or physical therapies) is recommended. There is clearly an urgent need to improve the management of patients who are disabled by headache. This Review summarises the present knowledge on TTH and discusses some of its more problematic features.