Pretty much everyone in the Midlands experiences a headache from time to time. For some, it’s the result of tension; others might have imbibed a bit too much the night before. There aren’t only many different causes of headaches—there are different types, as well. We’re going to discuss some of the most common.
10 Different Types of Headaches
Headaches are one of the most common health complaints. While we can determine which part of the brain is causing pain, we don’t really know why. For all the advances in modern medicine, some things are still a mystery.
Your CENTA ear, nose and throat provider has identified the following 10 types of headaches. In order to determine which type you are suffering from, pay attention to where the headache is occurring and what kind of pain it’s causing.
- Tension headaches. These are the most common headaches. They produce a steady ache or pressure in the head or neck. There aren’t usually any other accompanying symptoms, making tension headaches a nuisance more than anything else. Experts believe they are caused by contractions of the neck and scalp muscles in response to stress. Treat a tension headache with over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Cluster headaches. True to their name, cluster headaches occur in groups. They come on with little or no warning and cause severe pain on either side of the head. They often produce additional symptoms including watery eyes, nasal congestion and runny nose. Cluster headaches can occur repeatedly, even multiple times a day, for long stretches—and then disappear just as quickly as they came on, sometimes for months or years at a time. Doctors think they may have a genetic component. There is no cure for cluster headaches but lying down can help. Certain triggers such as alcohol, cigarettes, high altitudes and some foods can increase their likelihood.
- Sinus headaches. Inflammation of the sinuses, usually in response to an infection, can cause pain and pressure, nasal congestion, watery eyes and fever. Sinus headaches are sometimes mistaken for migraines because symptoms are similar, though they often produce a green or red-tinged nasal discharge. They usually go away on their own, but if they recur frequently or are severe, antibiotics may be prescribed.
- Migraine headaches. Migraines are severe headaches that meet the following criteria:
- they must have occurred at least 5 times previously,
- they last between 4-72 hours,
- they have two or more of the following characteristics:
- one-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate to severe pain, pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activity
- they have at least one of the following symptoms:
- Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or sound
Between 15 and 30 percent of migraine sufferers experience auras—visual distortions (flashing lights are common) or physical sensations. Known triggers include hormones, stress, and sleeping or eating patterns. Migraines affect women three times more often than men. There may be a genetic component.
- Rebound headaches. The pain medication you take to treat a headache can lead to a rebound headache when you become too dependent on it. Overuse of aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or prescription drugs may excite the brain, triggering additional headaches. They may also be a symptom of withdrawal as medication levels in the bloodstream fall.
- Caffeine headaches. If you’ve ever skipped your daily cup of joe and paid for it later, you’re not imagining things. Caffeine dependency can lead to a withdrawal headache if denied. You’re most likely to experience a caffeine headache if you drink excessive amounts of coffee (five or more cups a day).
- Ice cream headaches. Also known as a brain freeze, ice cream headaches are marked by sharp, stabbing pain in the head that occurs when eating ice cream or other extremely cold foods or beverages. Doctors believe sudden cold sensations on the roof of the mouth increase blood flow to the brain’s arteries, causing pain. Any discomfort should go away after a few minutes; sipping warm water can help hasten relief.
- Early-morning headaches. Some people wake up with headaches. These may be rebound-type headaches related to the waning effects of medication overnight. People with sleep apnea frequently experience morning headaches.
- Chronic daily headaches. Headaches that occur 15 days or more every month for more than three consecutive months are considered chronic. They may be caused by overuse of pain medications, head injuries, meningitis or tumors. Some people have improperly functioning pain signals that are unable to “turn off” easily. Antidepressants, beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications, Botox injections and OTC pain relievers can help treat chronic daily headaches.
- Menstrual headaches. A sudden drop in estrogen preceding a period may trigger a migraine or PMS-related headache. Over-the-counter pain medications and magnesium supplements can help reduce pain associated with menstrual headaches.
Fortunately, most headaches aren’t serious, but your CENTA ear, nose and throat specialist warns of the following:
- Sudden-onset headaches that are explosive in nature might be a sign of a brain aneurysm
- Headaches accompanied by fever and a sharp rise in blood pressure, when coming on the heels of a blow to the head or exertion, may indicate a serious condition
If you are experiencing these symptoms, don’t ignore them—especially if they are accompanied by vision or speech problems, neck pain, dizziness and muscle weakness on one side of the body. Call 911 immediately.