9 Types of Headaches—and How to Get Rid of Them
We all experience a headache in some form many times in our lifetime, but we do not know how complicated they actually are.
They can be caused by almost anything – from stress and emotional distress to some more serious issues like high blood pressure, anxiety, bleeding, injury and other medical conditions.
Even if it feels like the headache is caused by the pain in the brain, the truth is – the brain cannot feel the pain itself, it just points out to some parts of our body that are dealing with problems.
Different parts of the body cause different types of headaches, recognized by their own symptoms and pain intensity.
And while there are over 150 types of headaches, we will explain only the most common ones – what triggers them, how to recognize and how to get rid of them.
Some of them might need immediate professional help, so if you feel any of these symptoms make sure to contact your doctor who will choose the right treatment.
They were hoping to help health care experts (and even patients themselves) make a more precise diagnosis according to the type of headache they are fighting against.
Furthermore, there are 2 basic categories (primary and secondary headache), but also many more, such as cranial neuralgias, facial pain and others who don’t fit even one of them.
PRIMARY HEADACHES MIGRAINE
If a strong pain that feels like pulsating shows up on one side of the head, it is most probably a sign of a migraine.
Migraine is a recurring type of headache that most often causes intense throbbing pain only on the left or the right side of the head.
And the pain is not the only symptom. For example, you could experience sickness, nausea, and weakness, as well as intensified sensitivity to sound and light.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of things that can cause a migraine or make the existing one worse. Stress and anxiety are the leading factors in developing strong migraines, but not the only ones.
Some experts believe that migraines have a genetic cause, but can be triggered by almost any uncomfortable situation in a person’s life.
Although it depends on a person’s lifestyle and health condition how they’ll react on a certain discomfort, most people found that the exact same things triggered their migraines.
Some of these are loud noises and smells, bright lights, hormonal changes, bad quality of sleep, weather changes, physical activity, caffeine and even food.
Speaking of food, some ingredients can trigger strong headaches and they are most likely contained in alcohol, chocolate, some fruits, yeast, and meat.
Once you understand what causes this rather uncomfortable issue, you might as well accept that the migraines can often come very unexpectedly and they could be hard to get rid of.
To learn how to take care of yourself through this painful experience, you must first learn the phases of a migraine.
Anytime we go through a migraine, we don’t reach all phases or they just don’t show up the same order as they did before. Still, there are four of them that we should be aware of.
The first one is always a “prodrome”, and it starts at least 24 hours before the migraine.
Some people usually don’t notice it or never even experience it, so they can’t prepare for what comes next.
This phase has symptoms that could also refer to many other illnesses, such as food craving, sudden mood changes, yawning and increased urination.
The other phase that rarely happens is called the “aura”. People who experience it claim that they can see flashing lights and zig-zag lines. This phase also causes muscle weakness or a feeling of being touched. It can happen before and during the migraine.
The next one is a painful headache. The main characteristic of the migraine is a gradually increasing pain which is always pulsating. It can become very strong in this phase, followed by a feeling of sickness.
Raissa Villanueva, MD, MPH, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, says “This pain typically is severe and affects functioning”. She advises those who experience migraines to stop whatever they’re doing and rest for a while.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this type of headache. All treatments available nowadays are focusing on relieving symptoms or preventing a potential attack.
Experts found that different kinds of medicine can easily control symptoms, including triptan, ergotamine drugs or pain relievers. The only problem is that the patient must take them before the pain starts or at the very beginning of it in order to get effective treatment.
Some other things you can do to release the pain are sleeping, resting on a dark place, using cool cloth on the forehead, drinking water, etc. Also, people who suffer from migraines constantly will need to change their habits and lifestyle if they want to lower the chances of getting an attack again.
Daily exercises and meditation can reduce the severity of the pain. We suggest making a list of potential causes of your migraines, so you can learn what triggers the pain and therefore you’ll be able to avoid it. Take care of your sleep schedule and meals you have during the day.
For some women, hormone therapy can help if they find their migraines being connected to the menstrual cycle.
However, some migraines are caused by low magnesium levels, so you can try adding food that contains more magnesium to your daily diet.
Also, there is herb butterbur which could be used as a prevention, but it’s not recommended for use in the long-term.
Definitely, the most common type of headache is a tension headache, which appears as a squeezing pressure wrapped around the head. It is so common that every grown-up person has experienced it at least once in his life.
This headache causes moderate or intense pain behind the eyes, and sometimes even in the head or neck. People compare this feeling with a tight band wrapped around the forehead.
Those who deal with stress on a daily basis are more likely to develop episodic tension headaches, which can become very annoying since they occur a few times every month on average.
Unfortunately for some of us, this type of headache can be chronic too.
They are most often caused by muscle contractions in the head or neck, and there are plenty of activities and food that can trigger the pain. Some people noticed that sitting in front of the computer or TV for a long time or even driving without rest can help develop a tension headache.
As with the previous type, this one requires keeping a diary so you can track your bad habits and activities which are most likely causing this painful experience.
The notes will also help you reorganize your diet plan to prevent it.
Along with the food, make sure you’re well-hydrated, get some rest every day and don’t forget to keep a good posture.
As the name says, stress and tension are the ones who cause the headache and the stress as we know it is just a little part of it.
Your body is under pressure 24/7 to keep your organism healthy and happy, so it’s having more tensions than your mind can notice at a time. There are many tensions that we are simply not aware of.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggests a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture to prevent chronic tension headaches from developing.
The best advice for the public is to have a good rest when pain occurs, or if the pain is unbearable to use OTC medications.
Even if there is no cure in the long-term, there are dozens of ways to relax and get rid of the stress and tensions that cause this type of headache. We recommend doing yoga, getting a massage, exercising, using a cool cloth on the forehead or warm on the back of the neck.
Consultation with an expert is not necessary unless your headaches become more intense or appear more frequently than usual. We will list some cases in which you should better seek immediate professional help:
If headache shows up suddenly or it’s not like anything you have experienced before
If the pain is followed by a stiff neck, fever, nausea, and vomiting
If the headaches appear after an accident
If you become very weak, numb and confused.
Cluster headaches are described as very painful ones and they usually occur in short series every day for a few weeks on average.
People get them at the same time every year, usually in spring and fall. They are often mistaken for an allergy or stress since they appear seasonally.
“These are also called suicide headaches because the pain is very, very severe,” says Dr. Villanueva.
They affect men more than women. Some of the symptoms are red and tearing eye, drops of the eyelid and nose running on the same side.
When it comes to cluster headache, people tend to ignore the symptoms or connect them with something else, so it happens that years can pass before a person gets the right diagnosis. Doctors suggest high-flow oxygen treatment (inhaling oxygen from a mask) to relieve the pain.
However, it is not discovered yet what causes these headaches. W
e only know that there is a nerve in our face which creates intense pain around the eye.
It sometimes gets so painful and annoying that a person suffering from it must get up and take a walk.
Luckily, this one doesn’t last long but is still stronger than a migraine.
Pain is most often one-sided and it doesn’t change sides during one period. Still, it’s rare for the pain to change its side when a new period starts. Some people describe it as having a burning that can be pulsating as well as constant. The pain can also spread to the forehead, cheek, and nose.
On the bright side, cluster headaches last only 30-90 minutes, but in some cases, they can be much shorter or longer as 3 hours. After that, they simply vanish. The bad side is that you can get them as much as 8 times a day!
But unlike the rest of the headaches from this category, cluster headache is very predictable. The attacks are linked to the circadian rhythm.
They show up pretty regularly which explains why they are being called “alarm clock headaches”.
There are attacks even at night, which are more intense and can wake you up right after you fell asleep.
Apart from the oxygen treatment, there is no real cure for this headache.
People use drugs such as sumatriptan to reduce the intensity of the pain and frequency of the attacks.
Right, and professional treatment can shorten the periods and reduce the pain, but cannot cure it whole.
OTC painkillers that we mentioned earlier have no effects on this one since the pain starts and finishes too rapidly and by the time the medicine starts working the headache will be all gone.
Here are some other options that usually help by minimizing or preventing the pain:
Magnesium (Foods high in magnesium are almonds, seeds, figs, avocado, but you can also take magnesium supplements – the recommended dosage is up to 500 milligrams per day.)
Vitamin B2 (It can be found in mushrooms, spinach, and almonds for example or in supplements.)
Melatonin (This hormone that controls our sleeping patterns could be at a lower level, forcing you to take supplements every day before they sleep. The dosage depends on your weight and similar factors, so make sure you’ve consulted an expert before taking it.)
Ginger tea (Ginger tea is safe for most people and could be found as a whole root on the market.)
Essential oils (We recommend applying eucalyptus oil mixed with coconut oil to the forehead and spread it with the sponge.)#
Secondary headaches are mostly caused by an underlying structural or infectious problem in the neck and head (like neck injury for example).
It can involve not only infected teeth and infected sinus, but also some more serious medical conditions such as brain bleeding and meningitis.
This category also includes post conclusion headaches and also headaches associated with substance abuse, hangover headache, etc.
Sinus represents space inside the forehead, nose, and cheekbones which are filled with air.
These channels can get blocked due to an allergic reaction, making it harder to breathe. The pressure you feel this way is also causing the pain we call a “sinus headache”.
Whenever you feel pressure behind the eyes, you are most probably having this type of headache. Luckily, it’s very rare and can be easily mistaken for a migraine.
If doctors give you a diagnosis of bacterial infection, you must take prescribed antibiotics and/or nasal decongestant spray.
Otherwise, you could use some fairly popular methods at home to get rid of the pressure.
This option includes a warm wet towel on the face and cleaning with salt water, to clean and moisten the passages and relieve the pressure or pain.
This group does involve sinuses, but it’s seasonal and usually followed by many other uncomfortable symptoms. This includes nose running, sneezing and sometimes watery eyes. Prevention is easy if you keep avoiding the main cause of your allergy reaction.
There are several things you can do if you still get stuck in this situation:
Put a warm and moist cloth on the face several times every day
Drink a lot of water and other fluids
Inhale steam few times a day
Apply the nasal saline to your nose daily.
Menstrual headache is connected with changes in hormone levels in a woman’s body. It is linked with periods because of the natural changes in estrogen levels.
These can develop during ovulation, before and during the period.
The symptoms are very similar to migraine and that’s the reason why many people mistake it for migraines. The main difference is the lasting of this headache – it’s much longer more annoying as well.
They can be caused by menopause, pregnancy or even contraceptives.
In most cases, these headaches are treated as migraines, but the treatment also includes hormonal therapy, hormone replacement therapy, consumption of triptan, etc.
This headache basically comes like a clap of thunder and feels like a lightning strike. People confessed it was one of the most headaches they’ve event had.
Our body is working so hard to show us what is wrong with our organism by pointing out parts of ourselves that are affected the most.
But it happens that our own language doesn’t meet our body’s. We mistake the signals for something else, making it hard to get the appropriate treatment.
This should be no case with this type of headache since it can very often represent a more serious condition or illness. Sometimes it involves bleeding in or around the brain.
The headache can also show up to those who have some problems with blood vessels in the head, as well as to those who suffered a more serious injury. Stroke and brain aneurysms can trigger it too.
This is why it’s crucial to recognize the signs your body is sending and seek professional medical help on time.
The thunderclap headache is easy to recognize when it strikes since it appears without warning, it’s very intense and can last for a few minutes.
Other symptoms that people noticed: weakness and numbness, confusion, speaking problems, nausea and vomiting, vision and sensation issues, seizure.
Exercise headache is triggered by a specific type of exercise and can last for a few minutes or in some cases for a few days. The activities that most often help develop this type of headache are: running, weightlifting, tennis, and swimming.
The symptoms can vary from strong pulsating to one-sided aching pain and can be very annoying. They are pretty rare and if you’re the lucky winner, consult your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.
The experts separate these headaches into two different groups.
The first one is called “primary exercise headaches” which includes mostly harmless ones, not connected to any serious health problem.
On the other side, we have this threatening “secondary exercise headaches” group which is often caused by brain problems (artery disease, bleeding, tumor) and it requires urgent medical help.
Doctors usually do an imaging test to check whether your headache belongs to the second category if the pain lasts for a few hours, if it strikes with no warning, if you’re more than 40 years old, or if there are other problems connected with the headache.
If it turns out there is no medical condition causing the headache, it should stop attacking after 3 months approximately. In this case, you’re allowed to take naproxen at least half an hour before the exercise.
This headache appears right after lumbar puncture which is nowadays very often performed in medical emergencies or anesthesia. The occurrence of headaches showing up is around 32% and it can last for a few days straight.
The pain can vary from weak to highly intense, and at its strongest point, it can force patients to stay in bed until the pain goes away.
Moreover, the result can be very serious, leading to complications like seizures that can be fatal.
A pain that spinal headache causes can be dull and throbbing, usually getting worse when you sit up or stand. Lying down can help feeling better, as well as sleeping and relaxing until it goes away.
- Water: Drink water to stay hydrated. Dehydration leads to migraine and other primary types of headaches. Water helps our organism fight against the symptoms and bring relief as soon as 30 minutes after consuming it.
- Magnesium: This important mineral is crucial in the fight against painful headaches. It’s involved in many functions in our body such as blood sugar control or nerve transmission. It’s a safe and effective remedy that could be taken through magnesium supplements. We recommend smaller doses for the beginners.
- Vitamin B: This vitamin is mostly used for migraine attacks, as well as for any other intense and painful headache. It regulates neurotransmitters in the brain, making it a key part of the solution for bad headaches. It is very unlikely that someone will get too much of it since our bodies don’t store this vitamin in huge amounts.
- Vitamin E: This vitamin has a very low side effect profile. It effectively kills headache pain in a short period and is useful for migraine symptoms.
- Coenzyme Q10: This substance is naturally produced by the body. It helps with turning food into energy and is considered to be a great antioxidant. Taking these supplements is very efficient when used in headache treatments and is recommended by the experts.
- Caffeine: It not only improves flow in blood vessels (which helps to remove pain) but also increases other medications’ effectiveness.
- Ginger: According to one study, ginger is much more effective compared to sumatriptan which is commonly used for migraine attacks. Also, it does not have any negative effects so it’s absolutely safe to use for every person.
There you have it. A “reading” or “writing” headache should have been included somewhere in the article, but we thought of empirically introducing that one. Kidding.
Anyway, getting to know your enemy is the first step towards successfully fighting it.
Keep in mind that the cause of your headache can be psychological in nature, so you should do some mental hygiene now and then, visit a therapist and maintain a physically and psychologically healthy lifestyle.
Make sure your stress levels are low and generally try to chill.
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