Types of headaches- overview



A headache is a pain or discomfort in the head or facial regions. Sometimes people will experience headaches frequently.

Depending on their cause, headaches are categorised into two categories.

Primary headaches: They are not connected to another illness. In most cases, primary headache arises due to tense muscles, expanded blood vessels, nerve signal changes or swelling (inflammation) in certain brain regions.

Secondary headaches: These headaches are less common. They result from a disorder of the brain or another illness or condition.

Types of Headaches 

Over 150 types of headaches exist, and the most common ones are listed below.

Tension Headache 

After migraine, tension headaches are the second most frequent type of headache. They often hurt at the back of the head, the temples and the forehead as if a tight hat were in place. They are often referred to as hatband headaches.

When they first start, they often feel like pressure and might linger for hours or days. Both migraine and tension headaches are interlinked; either one may change into or cause the other. 

Physical therapy, relaxation therapy or muscle relaxants can be effective treatments for tension headaches. 

Cluster Headache 

As opposed to migraines, cluster headaches are a type of headache that often persists between 20 minutes to two hours. It is always one-sided and is accompanied by signs like tearing, a droopy lid, an enlarged pupil or a stuffy nose on one side.

The headaches typically happen many times per day for a few days to a few weeks, and then they stop for an undetermined amount of time, usually weeks to months. 

Treatments for cluster headaches differ greatly from those for other types of headaches. Popular opinion is that cluster headache is among the most agonising headaches that can exist. 

Medication Overuse Headache  

An NCBI article titled ‘Medication Overuse Headache’ states that Medication-overuse headaches (MOH), also referred to as drug-induced headaches are a common neurological condition that causes significant disability and suffering. MOH is a major factor in the progression of episodic headache disorders into chronic headache disorders. 

Patients with main headache disorders like migraine or tension headaches who abuse medication in an effort to treat the symptoms of their primary headache frequently get these headaches. 

The cycle of medication usage that results in increased headache frequency is one in which the drug prescribed to treat the original headache actually starts to trigger headaches.

New Daily Persistent Headache 

New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH) refers to a headache that develops suddenly in a person without a prior history of frequent headaches and continues every day for over three months. 

The unique characteristic of NDPH is that the patient frequently recalls the time or place where the headache first appeared.

Exertion or Exercise Headache 

A headache brought on by physical exertion is known as an exertion headache. Both sides of the head are affected by an exertion or exercise headache. It could persist for five minutes or two days. 

Although it could occur in any kind of weather or altitude, it is more likely to occur in hot weather, high humidity or at high elevations. Exertion headaches typically linger for about 3 to 6 months before disappearing.

Hemicrania Continua 

Hemicrania continua refers to a persistent, varying headache on one side of the head.

In most cases, the discomfort is low to moderate in intensity. Hemicrania continua’s cause is unknown. 

In addition to the pain, many people with this headache also have episodes of extremely painful discomfort.

Cranial autonomic symptoms occur, including drooping eyelids, wet eyes, red eyes, blocked or running noses, etc. The symptoms happen on the same side as the pain. 

Hypnic Headache

People between the ages of 40 and 80 are most likely to experience this uncommon type of headache. Hypnic headache stands out since it is a headache that only happens at night and lasts for between 15 and 60 minutes on average. 

The headaches usually start at the same time every night, are widespread (not just on one side), and don’t come with a runny nose, tears or other symptoms. 

Pregnancy headaches 

Although they can happen in the second trimester, headaches often occur more frequently in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. 

While there are several typical reasons for headaches during pregnancy, it’s crucial to remember that preeclampsia, or high blood pressure, can also cause headaches in the second and third trimesters.

Migraine Headache  

Migraines are the most prevalent type of headache. A headache on one side of the head is referred to as a migraine. It is a headache that typically lasts for two to seventy-two hours and is frequently accompanied by sensitivity to light or sound, nausea and vomiting. Usually, migraine pain is throbbing.

Various classifications for migraines include classic migraine and migraine with aura. Common migraines, also referred to as migraines without an aura, start out as painless headaches.

It is neither a psychological nor social condition; instead, migraine is a genetic, chronic disease similar to asthma or Diabetes. Although migraines do not yet have a cure, treatments are getting better at managing them.

The treatment plan involves determining the factors that cause headaches, altering lifestyle to avoid them, and using drugs and other treatment methods to treat headaches.

Sinus Headaches  

Although pressure around the eyes, forehead and cheeks is typically indicative of a sinus headache, other diseases may also be to blame. A migraine, sinusitis or stress headache could be possible causes.

A sinus headache may worsen while bending forward or lying down, in addition to the pressure and pain in the forehead, cheeks, and area behind the eyes. This headache may also be accompanied by other cold-like symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, cough and weariness.

A sinus headache can be distinguished from a migraine headache by several symptoms. A migraine typically gets worse with sound or strong light, whereas a sinus headache comes with nausea or vomiting.

Rebound Headaches  

Overuse of painkillers may be the root cause of rebound headaches that occur daily or nearly daily. These headaches start in the morning. There are daily variations in the headache’s position and intensity. 

Rebound headache sufferers may also experience nausea, nervousness, irritability, melanchol, or trouble sleeping. Rebound headaches seem to be a potential side effect of any painkiller. 

When the person stops taking the painkiller, rebound headaches typically stop as well. Though it may be challenging in the short term, a doctor can assist in overcoming rebound headaches for long-term relief.

Icepick Headaches  

The unusual headache, known as an ice pick headache, also known as an idiopathic or primary stabbing headache, is characterised by extremely brief pain stabs that occur in the frontal or temporal region. 

It primarily affects women. Ice pick headache occurs along with nausea, vomiting, photophobia and vertigo.

There are two types of it—primary and secondary, with secondary causes including multiple sclerosis, meningiomas, stroke and herpes zoster meningoencephalitis as examples. 

Thunderclap Headache 

Thunderclap Headache (TCH) is characterised as a severe type of headache that starts suddenly, resembling a clap of thunder, peaks within 30 seconds to a minute of the commencement, and often subsides over the course of a few hours. The victims frequently describe it as the worst headache they have ever had.

Spinal headache 

When fluid from the spine leaks, it disrupts the fluid pressure around the brain, strains the brain’s nerves, and causes headaches.

This type of headache is prone to some predicted risk factors. For instance, a third of individuals who have a spinal tap experience spinal headache (AKA lumbar puncture). 

To do a spinal tap, a physician inserts a spinal needle into the spinal canal in the lower back. Spinal fluid may occasionally seep out of the epidural area at the needle puncture site.

When to see a doctor? 

Talking to a doctor while experiencing headaches of any kind is vital so they can provide a treatment plan or refer a specialist.

Seeing a doctor is advisable if the headaches are getting worse, more frequent or interfering with daily activities.

Seeking medical assistance is mandatory when the headache

  • Is the worst headache one has experienced
  • Causes loss of vision or consciousness
  • Triggers vomiting
  • Lasts more than 72 hours with less than 4 hours of pain-free time.


Headache is a pain in any area of the head, including the scalp, upper neck, face and interior of the head.

Headaches makes performing daily activities and working more difficult. Some people have headaches frequently. 

There are various therapeutic options available for treating headaches, depending on the type of headache. Finding appropriate treatment alternatives requires a process of trial and error method.


What exactly happens during a headache? 

Brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerve signals interact to cause headache discomfort. Specific nerves that impact muscles and blood vessels are activated during a headache. These nerves communicate pain to the brain.

Is it okay to sleep with a headache? 

Going to bed with an untreated migraine is not advisable since it could get worse over the course of the night and be challenging to treat in the morning. But, a small study has suggested that getting enough sleep can help relieve headache pain.

Why does squeezing help headaches? 

The fact that mechanically compressing or squeezing the scalp temporarily relieves pain suggests that at least some of the pain associated with migraine headaches may come from dilated blood vessels in the scalp.

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