Headache Types


A headache is one of the most common types of health symptoms experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives. On average, most headaches are not very serious and can easily be treated by resting, drinking water, or taking painkillers.

Some people tend to worry unnecessarily when a headache seems more severe or frequent than usual. The most common assumption of a serious headache is that it is a symptom of a brain tumour but this is rarely the case. However, if a headache has not been relieved by the standard treatments and they seem to be severe, then it is highly recommended to consult your general practitioner.

Causes of Headache

A headache can occur in almost any part of the head and tends to be a sign of stress or a medical disorder such as depression, anxiety, or high blood pressure. The International Headache Society has two categories for headache disorders. They are:

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches normally include illnesses associated with the parts of a head that are sensitive to pain. They tend to be based on headache types like migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches are based on symptoms that occur when another condition affects the pain-sensitive areas of the head. These include conditions like stroke, substance abuse, infection, disorders of the nose, neck, teeth, or sinuses, concussion, panic attacks, bleeding in the brain, and many others.

Headache Types


Migraines are the most common type of primary headaches. A standard migraine is one-sided and throbbing. It normally tends to make an individual feel sick. Some migraines are severe to the point where someone may need to suspend his/her daily activities in order to treat it. Most people who suffer from migraines will sleep it off.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are a type of primary headaches that are normally felt across the forehead. They can stay on for several days and can feel very tiring or uncomfortable, but most of the time they don’t affect sleep. Most people can bear carrying on with daily activities while having a tension headache. However, they normally get worse in time. Although it might not be unusual for people suffering from tension headaches to be sensitive to noise or bright light, they aren’t affected further in regard to physical activity.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are a type of severe primary headaches that are sometimes referred to as ‘suicide headaches’. They occur in clusters more often every day for a number of days or weeks and then go away for months on end. They are not very common and mostly tend to occur among adult male smokers. They can be very severe one-sided headaches which can end up preventing regular daily activities.

Chronic Tension Headaches

Chronic tension headaches are secondary headaches that are usually a result of muscle tension in the back of the neck and normally tend to affect women more than men. Chronic typically means that the condition is very persistent and ongoing. These types of headaches are usually started by neck injuries or tiredness and can be made worse by medication overuse.

Primary Stabbing Headaches

Primary stabbing headaches are sometimes referred to as ‘idiopathic stabbing headaches’ or ‘ice-pick headaches’. They are short stabbing headaches which are very sudden and severe and usually last somewhere between 5 – 30 seconds at any given time of the day or night. They tend to occur in or just behind the ear and can sometimes be quite frightening. Although they are not migraines, they are common in people who have migraines and are often felt in the place of the head where a migraine has occurred.

Medication-Overuse Headaches

Medication overuse headaches are a type of secondary headaches that are unpleasant and long-lasting. They are normally caused by the continuous intake of painkilling medication that is usually used to treat headaches. When headache painkillers are taken regularly, the body responds to this by making more pain sensors in the head which eventually become so many that the head becomes extremely sensitive.

Headache Treatment

The most common treatment for headaches is pain relief medication and/or rest. However, standard headache pain relief medications can be bought without the need of a prescription or supervision. In addition, general practitioners can also prescribe several types of preventive medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, serotonin, and many more. 

Headache Symptoms

The symptoms of a headache will normally depend on what type of a headache an individual is suffering from.

Migraine Headaches

When one suffers from a migraine headache, there is usually a severe throbbing pain felt in one part of the head. Sometimes the person may feel sensitive to noise and light and there may also be vomiting and nausea.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches can be a general mild to moderate pain to the head that feels like a band around the head and normally affects both sides of the head.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches tend to cause intense pain which is often felt around one eye. These types of headaches usually happen at a specific time of the year and over a period of 1 – 2 months.


Most headaches are harmless no matter how unpleasant they may feel and will usually respond to simple treatments such as sleep or pain medication.

The most headache types experienced by people today are tension headaches, migraines, and medication overuse headaches. However, if you happen to feel that a headache feels unusual and/or severe, then you should consult your general practitioner.

Trying to find the underlying cause of any type of headache through discussion with a doctor is the best way to solve the issue. Finally, if you have a morning headache that doesn’t seem to go away and is always present for more than three days or is gradually getting worse, ensure that you talk to your general practitioner.

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