Headaches: We’ve all experienced them to varying degrees. While some people only have headaches every once in a while, others have chronic and debilitating headaches.
Many people don’t realize that there are several different types of headaches. Types of headaches can range greatly in causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Primary vs. Secondary Headaches
There are two main categories of headaches: primary and secondary. Primary headaches aren’t caused by a medical condition, meaning that the headache is the condition in and of itself. Secondary headaches are triggered by other medical conditions.
Common Primary Headaches
A migraine is a type of headache that generally causes intense throbbing or pulsing pain in the head. People who experience migraines may have them a few times each month. Migraines can last from four to 72 hours and, along with head pain, may cause nausea, vomiting, light/smell sensitivity, blurry vision, and digestive symptoms. Medications are available to treat migraines.
- Tension headaches
Tension headaches are very common and generally cause mild to moderate head pain. Over-the-counter pain medications, ice/heat therapy to relieve muscle tension and massage are examples of treatment options for tension headaches.
- Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches generally cause very severe, throbbing, burning, and/or piercing pain behind one eye. These headaches occur in “clusters” of weeks or months. People may experience multiple headaches per day during a cluster period.
Common Secondary Headaches
- Post-traumatic headache
Post-traumatic headaches generally occur a few days after a head injury.
- Allergy headache
Allergy headaches occur as a result of an allergic reaction in the body. This type of headache often targets the sinus area.
- Exertion headache
Exertion headaches can set in rapidly after a stretch of intense exercise or physical activity. This may be a result of heightened blood flow to the head.
- Hormonal headache
Women often experience hormonal headaches from pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, and birth control pills.
- Cervicogenic headache
This type of headache occurs as a result of neck pain. Whiplash, arthritis, neck sprains, and pinched nerves in the neck can cause cervicogenic headaches.