Different Types of Headaches and How to Treat Them

Even though brain is the part that transmits signal to other parts of the body when they pain or hurt, you would be surprised to know that it cannot detect itself a headache. Why? It’s because the tissues of your brain do not have nerves that are sensitive to pain. But other areas of the brain, namely, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that cover your head and neck are the reason behind your headache.

Doctors and experts have classified headaches into two different categories:

i) Primary headaches, and
ii) Secondary headaches.
In order to prevent your headache, you must first know what type of headache it is. But how do you tell if its a migraine headache, cluster headache, or just a excertional headache? The International Headache Society (IHS) classifies headaches in more than 150 types in its handbook International Classification of Headache Disorders.

This will help you identify your headache, so that you can look out for better prevention. Have a look at few of the most familiar types of headaches:



i) Primary headaches

These are headaches that are not associated with any other medical condition, and occur independently. The three main types of primary headaches are explained below:

1) Migraine –
Migraine is the most common type of headache. The World Health Organization places migraine as one of the 20 most disabling medical illnesses on the planet.

Affecting 38 million Americans, or about 12% of the population, or 1 member in every 4 households, it was ranked as the third most prevalent disorder and sixth-highest specific cause of disability worldwide in the Global Burden of Disease Survey 2010.

It is an extremely painful collection of neurological symptoms consisting of a throbbing and recurring pain, usually on one side of the head, although both sides are affected many a times. Usually accompanied by symptoms such as visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face, it is a disability disorder.
Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraine than men. It is suggested that it may be because of the biological changes they go through in their life cycle.

There is no cure for migraine yet, and the medications only help lower the intensive pain of the headache temporarily. Consulting your doctor or a good physician is highly advised.


2) Tension Headache –
Tension headaches are usually caused by strains in the muscles of the brain by extreme stress or depression, or emotional distress. These headaches are dull and non-throbbing pain, but are pressing and tightening in nature, and pre-pain symptoms include mild to moderate intensity of pain, lasting from minutes to days. The pain is further increased during actual headache and increases with the intensity and frequency of headaches.

The first step in caring for a tension-type headache involves treating any specific disorder that may be causing it.

Proper rest and sleep is advised so that your brain not strained any further. Other remedies include relaxing ice packs on head to reduce pressure, and avoidance of stress is a preventive measure.

3) Cluster Headache –
Cluster headache occurs in clusters. These one-sided pain in the brain are throbbing and severe in nature.
Although they are short-lived and lasts 15 minutes to 3 hours, they are the most excruciating ones. They might occur up to 3 times per day during the ‘cluster period’, which may last for 2 weeks to 3 months. Then, before you know it, the pain disappears completely, and is gone for months or even years, only to come back again.



ii) Secondary headaches –

These are headaches that are associated with some other medical conditions like infections, fever, dental injury, head injury, sinus, among several others.

4) Medication Overuse Headaches –
When you start taking in more medicine for pain, you start to develop resistant to medicines, and this in turn can lead you to drug overuse headaches.
The risk of medication overuse is mostly found in narcotic and butalbital-containing medications; although over the counter drugs may also have an effect.
Overuse of a drug can lead you to a dangerous pattern of even worsening headaches, so the best treatment is to lessen the use of medication for every pain that occurs, and consult a physician for a more structured treatment.


5) Sinus Headaches –
If you suffer from sinusitis, you may have symptoms like itchy and runny eyes, nasal congestion, and severe pain in the front of your head from time to time. They are often confused with migraine headaches, since both are caused in the front portion of your head.
Another common cause of sinus headaches is hay fever, which is caused by seasonal allergies from pollens, and dust particles present in the wind. Allergies to food are not usually a factor.
Try to keep your mouth and nose covered and protected if you suffer from sinusitis.


6) Caffeine-withdrawal Headache –
We all know that Caffeine is highly addictive. If you take 5 cups or more of coffee every day, and suddenly stop them, you may suffer from caffeine-withdrawal headaches. Your body needs its daily dose of caffeine, and incompliance to it will cause you generalized headache, which is not going to go away any soon.
The best treatment for it is either start giving your body its daily dose, or stop the caffeine intake altogether.

7) Chronic Daily Headaches –
Headache from time to time is a normal thing now a day, but if you suffer from headaches on almost a regular basis, then you may be a victim of chronic daily headaches. The recurring nature makes these headache one of the most disabling headaches.
Chronic daily headaches occur 15 days or more in a month, for at least three months. These usually affect both sides of your head, and cause pressing or tightening, but not pulsating pain.


8) Menstrual Headaches –
The menstrual cycle of women may affect the headaches that occur. It has long been recognized that there is a close relationship between female sex hormones and migraine.
The whole menstrual cycle, and not just periods, may act as a trigger for the headaches as there is a major drop in the level of estrogen which naturally occurs during the cycle. Factors such as the release of prostaglandin (a fatty acid that acts in a similar way to a hormone) may also be implicated at this time.


9) Post-traumatic Headaches –
Post-traumatic headache (PTH) is defined by the International Headache Society as: “a headache developing within seven days of the injury or after regaining consciousness.” The common symptoms of PTH vary from dizziness, insomnia, poor concentration, memory problems, to sensitivity to noise or bright lights, fatigue, depression and nervousness.
Although thoughts cannot be helped, but restricting yourself from thinking about such trauma will help the headaches go away.


10) Morning Headaches –
If you wake up with a heavy head every morning, you might be suffering from morning headaches. Sleep deprivation or sleep apnea, or some times, even over sleep, can be a major cause in this headaches.
Take proper rest and limit your sleep to 7-8 hours a day.

Measures to be taken –

Although different types of headache account for different preventive measure along with different medications, following points can be taken in to account when suffering from a headache:

  • Ice packs are great to cool off your hot head. Keep ice packs ready for when they are needed.
  • Essential oils are a great source to rejuvenate your mood and relief of a heavy head. Use lavender or rose essence oils in your house for a calming mind.
  • Light massage of your head and backbone from essential oil of your choice can be beneficial during a headache.
  • Acupressure and acupuncture is found to be very helpful during headaches, but be sure that you follow the procedure properly and carefully.
  • Take low-dose ibuprofen in self-medication of mild to moderate headaches, if necessary, and avoid heavy dosages of medicines.
  • Finally, take advice from your doctor or a good physician is the headaches are consistent and not improving.