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Headache

Headache is the most common form of pain. It’s a major reason people miss days at work or school or visit the doctor.

The most common type of headache is a tension headache. Tension headaches are due to tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. They are often related to stress, depression or anxiety. You are more likely to get tension headaches if you work too much, don’t get enough sleep, miss meals, or use alcohol.

Other common types of headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches. Most people can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax and taking pain relievers.

Headaches_Information_for_Patients

What is Headache ?

A headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. Serious causes of headaches are rare. Most people with headaches can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax, and sometimes by taking medicines.

Headache is our most common form of pain and a major reason cited for days missed at work or school as well as visits to the doctor.  The International Classification of Headache Disorders, published by the International Headache Society, is used to classify more than 150 types of primary and secondary headache disorders. Primary headaches occur independently and are not caused by another medical condition.  Migraine, cluster, and tension-type headache are the more familiar types of primary headache.

Secondary headaches are symptoms of another health disorder that causes pain-sensitive nerve endings to be pressed on or pulled or pushed out of place. They may result from underlying conditions including fever, infection, medication overuse, stress or emotional conflict, high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders, head injury or trauma, stroke, tumors, and nerve disorders (particularly trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition that typically affects a major nerve on one side of the jaw or cheek).

Headaches can range in frequency and severity of pain. Some individuals may experience headaches once or twice a year, while others may experience headaches more than 15 days a month. Pain can range from mild to disabling and may be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea or increased sensitivity to noise or light, depending on the type of headache.

Headaches classified

Types of headaches

Many of us are familiar with some form of the throbbing, uncomfortable, and distracting pain of a headache. There are different types of headaches. This article will explain 10 different types of headaches:

  • tension headaches
  • cluster headaches
  • migraine headaches
  • allergy or sinus headaches
  • hormone headaches
  • caffeine headaches
  • exertion headaches
  • hypertension headaches
  • rebound headaches
  • post-traumatic headaches

The World Health Organization points out that nearly everyone experiences a headache once in a while.

Although headaches can be defined as pain “in any region of the head,” the cause, duration, and intensity of this pain can vary according to the type of headache.

In some cases, a headache may require immediate medical attention. Seek immediate medical care if you’re experiencing any of the following alongside your headache:

  • stiff neck
  • rash
  • the worst headache you’ve ever had
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • slurred speech
  • any fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • paralysis in any part of your body or visual loss

If your headache is less severe, read on to learn how to identify the type of headache you may be experiencing and what you can do to ease your symptoms.

Causes of Headaches

The most common type of headache is tension headache. It is likely caused by tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp, and jaw. A tension headache:

  • May be related to stress, depression, anxiety, a head injury, or holding your head and neck in an abnormal position.
  • Tends to be on both sides of your head. It often starts at the back of the head and spreads forward. The pain may feel dull or squeezing, like a tight band or vice. Your shoulders, neck, or jaw may feel tight or sore.

migraine headache involves severe pain. It usually occurs with other symptoms, such as vision changes, sensitivity to sound or light, or nausea. With a migraine:

  • The pain may be throbbing, pounding, or pulsating. It tends to begin on one side of your head. It may spread to both sides.
  • The headache may be associated with an aura. This is a group of warning symptoms that start before your headache. The pain usually gets worse as you try to move around.
  • Migraines may be triggered by foods, such as chocolate, certain cheeses, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Caffeine withdrawal, lack of sleep, and alcohol may also be triggers.

Rebound headaches are headaches that keep coming back. They often occur from overuse of pain medicines. For this reason, these headaches are also called medicine overuse headaches. People who take pain medicine more than 3 days a week on a regular basis can develop this type of headache.

Other types of headaches:

  • Cluster headache is a sharp, very painful headache that occurs daily, sometimes up to several times a day for months. It then goes away for weeks to months. In some people, the headaches never come back. The headache usually lasts less than an hour. It tends to occur at the same times every day.
  • Sinus headache causes pain in the front of the head and face. It is due to swelling in the sinus passages behind the cheeks, nose, and eyes. The pain is worse when you bend forward and when you first wake up in the morning.
  • Headaches may occur if you have a cold, the flu, a fever, or premenstrual syndrome.
  • Headache due to a disorder called temporal arteritis. This is a swollen, inflamed artery that supplies blood to part of the head, temple, and neck area.

In rare cases, a headache can be a sign of something more serious, such as:

  • Bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissue that covers the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage)
  • Blood pressure that is very high
  • Brain infection, such as meningitis or encephalitis, or abscess
  • Brain tumor
  • Buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling (hydrocephalus)
  • Buildup of pressure inside the skull that appears to be, but is not a tumor (pseudotumor cerebri)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Lack of oxygen during sleep (sleep apnea)
  • Problems with the blood vessels and bleeding in the brain, such as arteriovenous malformation (AVM), brain aneurysm, or stroke

How to Treat Headache ?

When headaches occur three or more times a month, preventive treatment is usually recommended.  Migraine treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing additional attacks. Drug therapy, biofeedback training, stress reduction, and elimination of certain foods from the diet are the most common methods of preventing and controlling migraine and other vascular headaches. Drug therapy for migraine is often combined with biofeedback and relaxation training.

One of the most commonly used drugs for the relief of migraine symptoms is sumatriptan. The first step in caring for a tension-type headache involves treating any specific disorder or disease that may be causing it. A physician may suggest using analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or antidepressants to treat a tension-type headache that is not associated with a disease. The Food and Drug Administration has approved galcanezumab-gnlm (Emgality) injections to reduce the frequency of episodic headache attacks.

The drug was previously approved by the FDA to prevent migraine in adults. Other treatment for cluster headache includes triptan drugs, non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (which uses a hand-held device to transmit a mild electrical stimulation to the vagus nere throgh the skin), and oxygen therapy (in which pure oxygen is breathed through a mask to reduce blood flow to the brain). Certain antipsychotic drugs, calcium-channel blockers, and anticonvulsants can reduce pain severity and frequency of cluster headache attacks.

The FDA also has approved lasmiditan (Reyvow) and ubrogepant (Ubrelvy) tablets for acute treatment of migraine with our without aura.

 

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