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14 Headache Types

14 Headache Types

14 Headache Types and How to Treat Them

Many of us have experienced the throbbing, painful, and distracting agony of a headache in some form. Headaches come in a variety of forms. The following are examples of common headaches:

  • Tension headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Migraine headache
  • Hemicrania continua
  • Ice pick headache
  • Thunderclap headache
  • Headache caused by allergies or sinusitis (Please note that this is not a recognised headache disorder.) It’s more of a description of symptoms, which typically include sinus pressure or pain.)
  • Hormone headache (also known as menstrual migraine)
  • Caffeine headache
  • Exertion headache
  • Hypertension headache
  • Rebound headache
  • Post-traumatic headache
  • Spinal headache

Almost everyone has a headache every now and then. Depending on the type of headache, the reason, length, and intensity of the pain may differ.


In some circumstances, a headache necessitates medical attention right away. If you have any of the following symptoms in addition to your headache, seek medical help right away:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Rash
  • The most excruciating headache you’ve ever experienced
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Speech that is slurred
  • A temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F)
  • Any part of your body is paralysed
  • Vision impairment

If your headache isn’t too bad, keep reading to find out how to recognise the sort of headache you’re having and what you can do to relieve your symptoms.

Identifying the cause of headaches

Because there are so many different types of headaches, there are a variety of ways to diagnose which one you’re having. To receive successful therapy, it’s critical to determine if you’re suffering from a primary or secondary headache.

A physical exam and a comprehensive medical history should be the first steps in your headache diagnosis. Keep a “headache diary” in the weeks preceding up to your doctor’s appointment if at all possible. Make a list of all of your headaches, including:

  • Duration
  • Intensity
  • Location
  • Possible causes

A specialist, such as a neurologist, may be recommended by your primary care physician. Diagnostic testing may be required to discover the underlying cause of various headache types. These tests may involve the following:

  • CT or MRI scan
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Testing of blood

Headaches Types

Many headaches have similar sensory distributions, however, each person will experience them differently.

Headache Types - Allergy or Sinus headache

(Not a headache disorder but a description of symptoms)

Primary headaches are the most typical

When you have a primary headache, the pain in your head is the condition. In other words, your headache isn’t caused by an underlying condition in your body, such as disease or allergies.

These headaches can be either episodic or persistent:

  • Episodic headaches can happen every now and then, but they should not last longer than 15 days in a month. They can last anywhere between 30 minutes and several hours.
  • Chronic headaches occur on a more regular basis. They happen more than 15 times per month. In these situations, a pain management strategy is required.

A dull, painful sensation may be felt all over your head if you have a tension headache. It isn’t throbbing in any way. Tenderness or sensitivity in the muscles of the neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulders is also possible.

A tension headache can strike anyone at any time. They are frequently triggered by stress.

Migraine pain is a pulsing sensation that originates deep within your head. This discomfort can linger for several days. Migraine headaches severely impair your capacity to function on a daily basis.

Migraine pain is throbbing and usually only affects one side of the head. Migraine sufferers are frequently light and sound sensitive. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects.

Visual abnormalities might precede migraine headaches in some cases. Approximately one-third of persons will have these symptoms prior to the onset of the headache. It’s called a migraine aura, and it can make you see things like:

  • Strobe lights
  • Gleaming lights
  • Zigzag patterns
  • Stars
  • There are some blind spots

Tingling on one side of your face or in one arm, as well as difficulty speaking, are all signs of auras.


A migraine headache can mimic the signs of a stroke. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for the first time, visit a doctor immediately.

Migraine headaches can run in families, or they can be linked to other nervous system disorders. Women are three times as likely as males to suffer from migraines. Migraines are more common in those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Environmental elements, such as the following, are common migraine triggers:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dehydration
  • Skipped Meals
  • A few foods
  • Fluctuation of hormones
  • Chemical poisoning

Caffeine has an effect on brain blood flow. Caffeine overdose, as well as stopping caffeine “cold turkey,” can cause headaches. Caffeine usage can provoke migraine headaches in people who suffer from them frequently.

If you’re used to getting a particular quantity of caffeine, a stimulant, every day, you can develop a headache if you don’t get it. This could be due to the fact that caffeine alters brain chemistry, and withdrawal from it can create a cluster headache.

Hemicrania continua headache

Hemicrania continua is a persistent mild headache on one side of the head that lasts at least three months. Periods of heightened intensity may occur several times per day.

It is thought to contribute to roughly 1% of headaches, according to researchers. It affects twice as many women as it does males.

This form of headache may also be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Tears or redness of the eyes
  • Congestion in the nose or a runny nose
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Perspiration on the brow
  • Miosis
  • Agitation or restlessness

Ice pick headache

Primary stabbing headaches, also known as ice pick headaches, are characterised by brief, strong stabbing pains in the brain.

These headaches might happen several times a day and without warning. Ice pick headaches might seem like a single stab or several stabs in a row.

Ice pick headaches are notorious for moving about your head. If you’re getting ice pick headaches in the same location all the time, it could be a sign of something more serious.

Thunderclap headache

A thunderclap headache is a severe headache that develops quickly and peaks in intensity in less than a minute. It could be harmless, but it could also be a sign of something more serious that necessitates quick medical attention.

A thunderclap headache could signify one of the following:

  • A tear, a rupture, or an obstruction in a blood vessel
  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury
  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS)
  • Vasculitis is a disease that affects the blood vessels (inflammation of blood vessels)
  • Apoplexy of the pituitary gland (bleeding into or loss of blood from an organ)

If you get a thunderclap headache for the first time, visit a doctor right away. If your headache is not caused by another ailment, you can talk to your doctor about a treatment plan for future thunderclap headaches.

The most common headaches Caused by secondary Symptoms

Secondary headaches are a sign that something else in your body is wrong. Your headaches may become chronic if the cause of your secondary headache persists. Headache relief is usually achieved by treating the root cause.

An allergic reaction might cause headaches in certain people. The pain from these headaches is usually concentrated in the area around your sinuses and at the front of your head.

Sinus headaches are sometimes misdiagnosed as migraine headaches. Up to 90% of “sinus headaches” are actually migraine. These headaches are more common in people who suffer from seasonal allergies or sinusitis.

Caffeine headache

An allergic reaction might cause headaches in certain people. The pain from these headaches is usually concentrated in the area around your sinuses and at the front of your head.

Sinus headaches are sometimes misdiagnosed as migraine headaches. Up to 90% of “sinus headaches” are actually migraine. These headaches are more common in people who suffer from seasonal allergies or sinusitis.

Hormone headache

Hormonal variations are typically associated with headaches in women. Estrogen levels are affected by menstruation, birth control pills, and pregnancy, all of which might induce a headache.

Menstrual migraine refers to migraines that are directly linked to the menstrual cycle. These can happen before, during, or after your period, as well as when you’re ovulating.

Hypertension headache

A headache can be caused by high blood pressure. This type of headache is a medical emergency. It happens when your blood pressure rises to dangerously high levels.

A hypertension headache usually affects both sides of your head and is exacerbated by physical exertion. It has a pulsing quality to it.


Call 999 or proceed to the nearest emergency room. If you suspect you’re suffering from a hypertension headache, visit a doctor right once. If you have:

  • Blurry vision
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chest discomfort
  • Breathing problems

If you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, you’re more prone to get this type of headache.

Rebound headache

Rebound headaches, also known as medication overuse headaches, can be dull and tension-like or more acutely painful, similar to a migraine headache.

If you frequently use over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines, you may be more prone to this sort of headache. Overuse of these drugs leads to an increase in headaches rather than a decrease in headaches.

When OTC drugs are used for more than 15 days in a month, rebound headaches are more likely to occur. These over-the-counter drugs include:

  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen

They’re also more common with caffeine-containing medicines.

Post-traumatic headache

Any sort of head injury might result in post-traumatic headaches. Migraine or tension headaches are the symptoms of these headaches. They might last anywhere from 6 to 12 months following an accident. They have the potential to become chronic.

Exertion headache

Exertion headaches occur soon following periods of vigorous physical activity. Exercising, running, and sexual activity are all major causes of exertion headaches. These activities are supposed to increase blood flow to your skull, resulting in a pounding headache on both sides of your head.

An exercise headache should not last more than a few hours. This form of headache normally passes in a matter of minutes or hours.

Spinal headache

Following a lumbar puncture, low cerebrospinal fluid pressure causes a spinal headache. It’s also called a post-dural puncture headache because of this. This headache could be felt in your:

  • Forehead
  • Temples
  • Upper torso
  • The back of the neck

Spinal headaches occur between 10% and 40% of the time after a lumbar puncture, according to research. The onset normally happens within 2 to 3 days, however, it can happen months later.

Other signs and symptoms of a spinal headache are:

  • Nausea
  • Neck ache
  • Dizziness
  • Visual changes
  • Tinnitus
  • Loss of hearing
  • Discomfort in the arms that radiates

When to call a doctor

Episodic headaches usually go gone in 48 hours or less. See a doctor if you experience a headache that lasts more than two days or worsens in strength.

If you have headaches for more than 15 days a month for more than three months, you may have a persistent headache condition. Even if you can manage the pain with over-the-counter drugs, you should consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

Headaches can be a sign of more serious health problems, and some of them require more than over-the-counter drugs and home cures to manage.


Various forms of headaches will be treated in different ways. Simple dietary changes to intrusive procedures conducted by a medical expert could be used as treatments.

Even for the same types of headaches, not everyone will respond to the same therapies. If you’re having headaches that you can’t seem to get rid of on your own, see a doctor about creating a treatment plan.

Continue reading to learn more about the most frequent headache treatments.

Over-the-counter pain treatment may be all you need to alleviate your headache symptoms. The following are examples of over-the-counter pain relievers:

  • Paracetamol
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

If over-the-counter treatments don’t work, your doctor may prescribe prescription medication, such as:

  • Indometacin
  • Meloxicam (Mobic)
  • Ketorolac Trometamol

When a tension headache becomes persistent, a different approach to addressing the underlying headache trigger may be suggested.

If over-the-counter pain medicines don’t ease migraine pain, a doctor may prescribe triptans. Triptans are medications that reduce inflammation and alter blood flow in the brain. Nasal sprays, tablets, and injections are all options.

Among the most popular choices are:

  • Sumatriptan is an anti-anxiety medication (Imitrex)
  • Rizatriptan is a kind of rizatriptan that is (Maxalt, Axert)

If you suffer from migraine headaches, talk to your doctor about taking a daily medication to prevent them.

  • More than 3 days a month debilitating
  • A little debilitating 4 times each month
  • Recurring for more than 6 days per month

Preventative migraine drugs are considerably underused, according to a 2019 review: just 3 to 13% of persons with migraine take preventive medication, despite the fact that up to 38% of those with migraine genuinely need it.

Migraine prevention dramatically enhances one’s quality of life and productivity.

Medications that can help prevent migraines include:

  • Propranolol is a drug that is used to treat high blood pressure (Inderal)
  • Metoprolol is a drug that is used to treat high blood pressure (Toprol)
  • Topiramate is a type of topiramate that is (Topamax)
  • Amitriptyline

To alleviate the symptoms, a doctor may suggest the following:

  • Oxygen treatment
  • Sumatriptan is an anti-anxiety medication (Imitrex)
  • Anaesthetic applied locally (lidocaine)

Your doctor will work with you to build a preventative plan once a diagnosis has been made. Your cluster headaches may go into remission if you do the following:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Melatonin
  • Topiramate is a type of topiramate that is (Topamax)
  • Calcium channel blockers are drugs that prevent calcium channels from opening.

The mucus that builds up and produces sinus pressure is thinned out to relieve sinus headaches. Among the possibilities are:

  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Phenylephrine and other over-the-counter decongestants (Sudafed PE)
  • Cetirizine and other antihistamines

Sinus headaches can also be a sign of a sinus infection. Antibiotics may be prescribed in certain circumstances to remove the infection and ease your headache and other symptoms.

Caffeine headache

Keeping your caffeine intake at a regular, moderate amount, or completely eliminating it, will help you avoid headaches.

Hormone headache

Pain can be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) pain remedies like naproxen (Aleve) or prescription medications like frovatriptan (Frova).

According to a 2015 study, roughly 60% of women with migraine also suffer menstrual migraine, therefore alternate treatments could help reduce overall migraines per month. The following suggestions may be useful:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Eating a modified diet

Hemicrania continua

A full reaction to indomethacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID), is one of the diagnostic markers of hemicrania continua. Symptoms are usually relieved within 24 hours after taking a low dose three times daily with meals.

Because indomethacin might have adverse effects, especially at larger doses, it’s best to start with the lowest effective amount.

Hypertension headache

These headaches usually go away as soon as your blood pressure is under control. They shouldn’t happen again as long as your blood pressure is under control.

Rebound headache

Rebound headaches can only be treated by weaning yourself off of the pain medication you’ve been using. Although the pain may initially worsen, it should fade completely within a few days.

Taking a preventive daily medicine that does not cause rebound headaches and prevents migraines from arising in the first place is an excellent method to avoid drug overuse headaches.

Post-traumatic headache

To treat these headaches, doctors frequently prescribe the following medications:

  • Triptans
  • Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Amitriptyline

Exertion headache

Symptoms are usually relieved by over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.

Consult a doctor if you experience exertion headaches frequently. They could be a sign of a significant underlying condition in some circumstances.

Spinal headache

Pain medications and water are frequently the first treatments for spinal headaches. It also aids in the avoidance of being upright. After a week or two, the symptoms usually go away on their own.

An epidural blood patch may be used in specific instances. A small amount of blood is withdrawn from your body and injected back into your epidural space in this treatment. It can help prevent the leaking of cerebrospinal fluid, which in turn prevents headaches.

Thunderclap headache

You must treat the underlying condition if your thunderclap headache is caused by something else.

It’s a primary thunderclap headache if your thunderclap headache isn’t triggered by anything else. NSAIDs, such as indomethacin, could be used to treat them. Other options for treating a thunderclap headache include:

  • Calcium channel blockers are drugs that prevent calcium channels from opening.
  • Beta-blockers
  • Topiramate
  • Lithium
  • Triptans

Ice pick headache

Because ice pick headaches are so short-lived, they can be difficult to treat. The majority of ice pick headaches pass before you can do much about them.

You may choose to take precautions to lessen the frequency or severity of future headaches. Treatment options include:

  • Indomethacin
  • Gabapentin
  • Inhibitors of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)
  • Melatonin
  • External hand warming

Is it possible to prevent headaches?

Preventive measures can help with a variety of headaches, but the approaches will vary depending on the type of headache. Some forms of headaches can be avoided with medicine, but others can be induced by the same medication. As a result, it’s critical to understand what works best for you.

Consult a doctor about preventive therapies to come up with a plan that works for you. Headache prevention can involve reducing the frequency or intensity of headaches, as well as preventing headaches entirely.

Many headaches can be avoided or eased by making lifestyle modifications, such as:

  • Getting adequate sleep on a consistent basis
  • Eating enough and eating well-balanced meals
  • Maintaining hydration
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Coping with anxiety

Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) therapy can help avoid migraine headaches.


The type of headache you have will determine your outlook.

Primary headaches do not result in lifelong disability or death, according to Trusted Source. However, if they are frequent and severe enough, they can be temporarily disabling. When appropriately evaluated and treated, these headache types can often be managed.

The prognosis for secondary headaches will be determined by the root cause. Some can be controlled with minor modifications in routine, while others can be fatal if not treated right away.

Get medical help immediately away if you’re having recurring or severe headaches. The first step in understanding and controlling your headaches in the future is to get a correct diagnosis.