Beginner’s Guide To Headache Types

Factors, Treatment, Prevention and Signs That Your Headache Requires Medical Attention

Did You Know? Headaches are the most common form of pain that necessitates a visit to the doctor. But many people don’t visit their physician concerning this ailment, and instead rely on over-the-counter medication. While this is a fine short-term fix, it isn’t a sustainable course of action for some conditions. With chronic headaches, it won’t be long before the recommended dosage doesn’t help with headache pain. Exceeding the recommended dosage of medicine for your pain can even cause a headache!

Most often, when your head hurts, you have a tension headache. Often related to stress, depression or anxiety, tension headaches are due to tight muscles in your shoulders, neck or jaw. Lack of sleep, alcohol use, and hunger can cause tension headaches, as can many of the stresses of everyday life.

Not every headache needs to be checked out by your doctor, of course. But the Headache Center at ADC would like to see you if any of these following statements are true for your headache. You should seek treatment in the following circumstances:

  • Sudden onset of excruciating pain
  • First or worst headache of your life
  • Worsening pattern of headaches
  • Fever associated with a headache
  • Rapid onset of headache with strenuous exercise
  • Any change in mental status or level of consciousness
  • New headache in patients under 5 or over 50

There are a number of other common types of headaches. Let’s look at each type and corresponding factors for each.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are caused by acute infection – usually with fever – producing blockage of sinus ducts. This blockage prevents normal drainage causing a gnawing pain over the nasal area. Often the pain increase in severity throughout the course of the day. Sinus headaches are rare, but migraine and cluster headaches are often misdiagnosed as sinus in origin.

  • Precipitating Factors: Infection, nasal polyps, anatomical deformities, such as deviated septum that blocks the sinus ducts
  • Treatment: Treat with antibiotics, decongestants, surgical drainage, if necessary
  • Prevention: None

Arthritis Headaches

Inflammation of the blood vessels of the head or bony changes in the structures of the neck is the cause of an arthritis headaches. They are recognizable by the pain at the back of head or neck which intensifies on movement.

  • Precipitating Factors: Cause of pain is unknown
  • Treatment: Anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants
  • Prevention: None

Caffeine-Withdrawal Headaches

Caffeine withdrawal headaches are real. They can occur multiple days after consumption of large quantities of caffeine. This headache is a throbbing headache caused by rebound dilation of the blood vessels.

  • Precipitating Factors: Caffeine
  • Treatment: Treat by terminating caffeine consumption in extreme cases.
  • Prevention: Avoiding excess use of caffeine.

Depression and Headaches

Depression is closely linked to chronic pain in the body – including migraine headaches, severe non-migraine headaches, and lower back pain.

  • Precipitating Factors: Causes can originate from a wide variety of complaints. Causes of depression are often categorized as physical, emotional, and psychic.
  • Treatment: Depression is a widespread affliction that can be treated. But diagnosing the presence of depression is frequently missed. Once discovered, however, there are many options for relief.
  • Prevention: Physicians can prescribe tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or monoamine oxidize inhibitors in the treatment of headaches associated with depression.

Exertional Headaches

Symptoms of exertional headaches include generalized head pain of short duration (minutes to an hour). They occur during or following physical exertion (running, jumping, or sexual intercourse). Passive exertion (sneezing, coughing, moving one’s bowels, etc.) can also bring on these types of headaches.

  • Precipitating Factors: Most (around ninety percent) are related to migraine or cluster headaches. In some cases, exertional headaches may be caused by organic diseases. Your doctor may look for signs of aneurysms, tumors, or blood vessel malformation.
  • Treatment: Extensive testing is necessary to determine the headache cause. Once determined, these are most commonly treated with aspiring, indomethacin, or propranolol. Surgery is occasionally the best way to correct the organic disease.
  • Prevention: Alternative forms of exercise; avoid jarring exercises

Fever Headaches

Fever headaches include generalized head pain that develops with fever, caused by the swelling of the blood vessels of the head.

  • Precipitating Factors: Caused by infection
  • Treatment: Aspirin; acetaminophen; NSAIDs; antibiotics
  • Prevention: None

Hangover Headaches

Migraine-like symptoms of throbbing pain and nausea, but it is not localized to one side. Hangovers can last up to 72 hours after drinking, but most are shorter in duration. Many personal and temporal factors drive the status of these types of headaches including: how much was consumed, level of dehydration, nutritional status, ethnicity, gender, the state of your liver, medications, etc.

  • Precipitating Factors: Alcohol, which causes dilation and irritation of the blood vessels of the brain and surrounding tissue.
  • Treatment: Liquids (including broth); consumption of fructose (honey, tomato juice are a good source)
  • Prevention: Drink alcohol only in moderation

Hunger Headaches

A hunger headache is exactly as it sounds. A lack of proper nourishment causes muscle tension, low blood sugar, and rebound dilation of the blood vessels.

  • Precipitating Factors: Strenuous dieting or skipping meals
  • Treatment: Regular, nourishing meals containing adequate protein and complex carbohydrates
  • Prevention: Regular, nourishing meals containing adequate protein and complex carbohydrates

Hypertension Headaches

Very high blood pressure can trigger an event known as malignant hypertension, or a hypertensive crisis. This is most recognizable with generalized or “hair band” type pain that is most severe in the morning. It diminishes throughout the day.

Malignant hypertension usually is also associated with blurred vision, chest pain, and nausea. Read more about hypertension here.

  • Precipitating Factors: Severe hypertension: over 200 systolic and 110 diastolic
  • Treatment: Treat with appropriate blood pressure medication
  • Prevention: Keep blood pressure under control

Menstrual Headaches

For some women, Migraine-type pain occurs shortly before, during, or immediately after menstruation. For other women, this pain happens at mid-cycle (at the time of ovulation). The cause or trigger is thought to be the change of the level of estrogen. The blood level of this chemical (hormone) falls just before a period.

  • Note: A menstrual headache does not mean a low estrogen level. It is the natural dip of the hormone level that causes the pain.
  • Precipitating Factors: Variances in estrogen levels
  • Treatment: Taking a magnesium supplement might make your headaches shorter and your periods easier. Before beginning a new supplement, discuss this with a doctor. Limiting dietary salt before a period starts will reduce excess water in the body, which could create extra pressure.
  • Prevention: Biofeedback; beta blockers (propranolol, timolol); anti-convulsant (divalproex sodium); calcium blockers; and NSAIDs

Chronic Daily Headaches

This refers to a broad range of headache disorders occurring more than 15 days a month. These headaches are categorized by duration of pain (less than four hours and more than four hours).

  • Precipitating Factors: Typically evolve from transformed migraine. Can be associated with medication overuse. They are not related to chronic tension-type headache, but can evolve from episodic tension-type headaches.
  • Treatment: Depending on the type of CDH, different treatment options exist. It is important to limit analgesic use.
  • Prevention: Based on diagnosis of headache, how long they last, and the number experienced per month. This requires extensive doctor or specialist intervention.

Finding out what triggers a headache or migraine may help to avoid or lessen the effects of headache symptoms. Also, we would love to help. Contact us if you need to schedule an appointment or have any further questions.

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Precipitating Factors For Each Common Headache Type

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Almost everyone has had a headache. Headaches are the most common form of pain and a major reason people miss days at work, school or take a visit to 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:

 Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches include gnawing pain over the nasal area and often increase in severity throughout the day. Pain is caused by acute infection, usually with fever, producing blockage of sinus ducts and preventing normal drainage. Fortunately, sinus headaches are rare…however, migraine and cluster headaches are often misdiagnosed as sinus in origin.

Precipitating Factors: Infection, nasal polyps, anatomical deformities, such as deviated septum that blocks the sinus ducts

Treatment: Treat with antibiotics, decongestants, surgical drainage, if necessary

Prevention: None

Arthritis Headaches

You can point out an arthritis headache by the pain at the back of head or neck which intensifies on movement. It is caused by inflammation of the blood vessels of the head or bony changes in the structures of the neck.

Precipitating Factors: Cause of pain is unknown

Treatment: Anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants

Prevention: None

Caffeine-Withdrawal Headaches

Skip your morning coffee? Caffeine withdrawal headaches include a throbbing headache caused by rebound dilation of the blood vessels, occurring multiple days after consumption of large quantities of caffeine.

Precipitating Factors: Caffeine

Treatment: Treat by terminating caffeine consumption in extreme cases.

Prevention: Avoiding excess use of caffeine.

Chronic Daily Headaches

This refers to a broad range of headache disorders occurring more than 15 days a month; two categories are determined by duration of the headache (less than four hours and more than four hours).

Precipitating Factors: Typically evolve from transformed migraine. Although not related to chronic tension-type headache, they can evolve from episodic tension-type headache. Can be associated with medication overuse.

Treatment: Depending on the type of CHD, different treatment options exist. It is important to limit analgesic use.

Prevention: Based on diagnosis of headache, how long they last, and the number experienced per month.

Depression and Headaches

Depression seems to be especially closely linked to certain kinds of chronic pain in the body, including migraine headaches, severe non-migraine headaches, and lower back pain.

Precipitating Factors: Causes can originate from a wide variety of complaints that can be categorized as physical, emotional, and psychic.

Treatment: The presence of depression is often subtle and the diagnosis is frequently missed. Depression is a wide spread affliction that can be treated, but first it must be unmasked.

Prevention: Physicians can prescribe tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or monoamine oxidize inhibitors in the treatment of headaches associated with depression.

 Exertional Headaches

Symptoms of exertional headaches include generalized head pain of short duration (minutes to an hour) during or following physical exertion (running, jumping, or sexual intercourse), or passive exertion (sneezing, coughing, moving one’s bowels, etc.)

Precipitating Factors: Ten percent caused by organic diseases (aneurysms, tumors, or blood vessel malformation). Ninety percent are related to migraine or cluster headaches.

Treatment: Cause must be accurately determined. Most commonly treated with aspiring, indomethacin, or propranolol. Extensive testing is necessary to determine the headache cause. Surgery is occasionally indicated to correct the organic disease.

Prevention: Alternative forms of exercise; avoid jarring exercises

Fever Headaches

Fever headaches include generalized head pain that develops with fever and is caused by the swelling of the blood vessels of the head.

Precipitating Factors: Caused by infection

Treatment: Aspirin; acetaminophen; NSAIDs; antibiotics

Prevention: None

Hangover Headaches

Migraine-like symptoms of throbbing pain and nausea, but it is not localized to one side. Hangovers can last up to 72 hours after drinking, but most are shorter in duration. Again it depends on how much was consumed, how dehydrated you became, nutritional status, ethnicity, gender, the state of your liver, medications, etc.

Precipitating Factors: Alcohol, which causes dilation and irritation of the blood vessels of the brain and surrounding tissue.

Treatment: Liquids (including broth); consumption of fructose (honey, tomato juice are a good source)

Prevention: Drink alcohol only in moderation

Hunger Headaches

Have you ever experienced pain that strikes just before mealtime? Chances are it’s a hunger headache, and it is caused by muscle tension, low blood sugar, and rebound dilation of the blood vessels, oversleeping, or missing a meal.

Precipitating Factors: Strenuous dieting or skipping meals

Treatment: Regular, nourishing meals containing adequate protein and complex carbohydrates

Prevention: Regular, nourishing meals containing adequate protein and complex carbohydrates

Hypertension Headaches

Generalized or “hair band” type pain that is most severe in the morning. It diminishes throughout the day. Very high blood pressure can trigger an event known as malignant hypertension. Malignant hypertension is also referred to as a hypertensive crisis. … In addition to a headache, malignant hypertension usually is also associated with blurred vision, chest pain, and nausea.

Precipitating Factors: Severe hypertension: over 200 systolic and 110 diastolic

Treatment: Treat with appropriate blood pressure medication

Prevention: Keep blood pressure under control

Menstrual Headaches

For some women, Migraine-type pain that occurs shortly before, during, or immediately after menstruation or at mid-cycle (at the time of ovulation). The cause or trigger is thought to be the fall of the level of estrogen. The blood level of this chemical (hormone) falls just before a period. It is not a low level of estrogen that is thought to be the trigger.

Precipitating Factors: Variances in estrogen levels

Treatment: Taking a magnesium supplement might make your headaches shorter and your periods easier. But talk to your doctor before you start using it. It’s also a good idea to limit how much salt you eat before your period starts so your body doesn’t hang on to water in your tissues, which could create extra pressure.

Prevention: Biofeedback; beta blockers (propranolol, timolol); anti-convulsant (divalproex sodium); calcium blockers; and NSAIDs

For many people, finding out what triggers a headache or migraine can help them avoid or lessen the effects of their headache symptoms. Fortunately, we can help. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

(Some information provided by the National Headache Foundation).

There Could Be a Reason Behind Your Headache

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Some information provided by Medline Plus.

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.

Types of Headaches

  • Migraine headaches
    • Pain may be generalized, or on one side or both sides of the head
    • Can cause mood swings, fatigue, food craving, nausea, vomiting or vertigo
    • May also cause visual disturbances or sensitivity to light and sound, flashing lights or floaters
    • Usually last 4-72 hours
  • Tension headaches
    • Usually occur at the base of your head and is usually on both sides of your head
    • Dull, vice-like pressure around the head
    • Can be triggered by stress or muscle tension, poor ergonomics or body mechanics
    • Can be intermittent and lasting throughout the day
  • Cluster headaches
    • Pain may affect the eye, temple, face and/or neck areas
    • Sudden and excruciating pain that can happen at night waking you up from sleep
    • May be accompanied with a runny nose on one side or nasal stuffiness
    • May cause watering in one eye
    • Can occur at the same time for several days
  • Chronic daily headaches
    • Daily or nearly daily headache for more than 3 months
  • Medication overuse headaches
    • Use of an analgesic more than 3 times weekly for more than 3 months
  • Sinus Headache
    • Pain or pressure occurring behind the brow bone or cheek bone
    • Often accompanied with nasal or sinus congestion
    • Ear fullness

Other Less Common Types of Headaches

Some headaches originate from the neurological system:

  • Post traumatic headaches
    Concussion
    Brain injury
  • Tumors and other causes of increased intracranial pressure
    Pseudotumor cerebral (too much fluid in the brain compartment)
    Subdural hematoma (blood outside the brain but putting pressure on the brain)
  • Cervical spine disorders

Some headaches originate from causes outside the neurological system such as:

  • Fever
  • Hypertension
  • Sinusitis
  • Sleep apnea

When to Seek Treatment

  • Sudden onset of excruciating pain
  • First or worst headache of your life
  • Worsening pattern of headaches
  • Fever associated with a headache
  • Rapid onset of headache with strenuous exercise
  • Any change in mental status or level of consciousness
  • New headache in patients under 5 or over 50

Clinical Services Available

  • MRI
  • Lab

Treatment Options

  • Medication to prevent or relieve the pain
  • Physical therapy referrals
  • Botox therapy
  • Occipital nerve blocks

Not all headaches require a doctor’s attention. But sometimes headaches warn of a more serious disorder. Let us know if you have sudden, severe headaches. Get medical help right away if you have a headache after a blow to your head, or if you have a headache along with a stiff neck, fever, confusion, loss of consciousness, or pain in the eye or ear. Contact us if you have any questions or to set up an appointment.

Your Type Of Headache: How We Can Help

adc-headache-center

Some information provided by the Mayo Clinic.

It’s common for people to experience headaches from time to time. However, if you have a headache more days than not, you may be experiencing chronic daily headaches. The incessant nature of chronic daily headaches makes them among the most disabling headaches. The Headache Center offers treatment that may reduce pain and lead to fewer headaches. Some headaches are mild and nagging while others can be severe and debilitating. Headache pain can lead to:

  • Lost time at work
  • Poor job performance
  • Missed time with family and friends

By definition, chronic daily headaches occur 15 days or more a month, for at least three months. True (primary) chronic daily headaches aren’t caused by another condition. Headaches can be frustrating and difficult to treat and can be caused by a number of issues including:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Food allergies

Types of Headaches

  • Migraine headaches
    Pain may be generalized, or on one side or both sides of the head
    Can cause mood swings, fatigue, food craving, nausea, vomiting or vertigo
    May also cause visual disturbances or sensitivity to light and sound, flashing lights or floaters
    Usually last 4-72 hours
  • Tension headaches
    Usually occurs at the base of your head and is usually on both sides of your head
    Dull, vice-like pressure around the head
    Can be triggered by stress or muscle tension, poor ergonomics or body mechanics
    Can be intermittent and lasting throughout the day
  • Cluster headaches
    Pain may affect the eye, temple, face and/or neck areas
    Sudden and excruciating pain that can happen at night waking you up from sleep
    May be accompanied with a runny nose on one side or nasal stuffiness
    May cause watering in one eye
    Can occur at the same time for several days
  • Chronic daily headaches
    Daily or nearly daily headache for more than 3 months
  • Medication overuse headaches
    Use of an analgesic more than 3 times weekly for more than 3 months
  • Sinus Headache
    Pain or pressure occurring behind the brow bone or cheek bone
    Often accompanied with nasal or sinus congestion
    Ear fullness

Treatment

You should seek treatment if:

  • Sudden onset of excruciating pain
  • First or worst headache of your life
  • Worsening pattern of headaches
  • Fever associated with a headache
  • Rapid onset of headache with strenuous exercise
  • Any change in mental status or level of consciousness
  • New headache in patients under 5 or over 50

Your doctor will likely examine you for signs of illness, infection or neurological problems. He or she will ask about your headache history. If the cause of your headaches remains uncertain, your doctor may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to look for an underlying medical condition. If you think you might be experiencing signs of chronic headaches or if you have any questions, contact us.

It’s time to take control of your health. Contact us if you think you might be experiencing signs of chronic headaches or if you have any questions.

A look at headaches and headache prevention.

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Nothing puts a damper on things quite like a headache. Whether it’s your personal life or your professional one, you just can’t be your fullest while you have one.

Most headaches aren’t the result of a serious illness, but some may result from a life-threatening condition requiring emergency care. Your headache symptoms can help your doctor determine the cause and the appropriate treatment.

Headaches are generally classified by cause:

Primary Headaches

A primary headache is caused by problems with or overactivity of pain-sensitive structures in your head. A primary headache isn’t a symptom of an underlying disease. Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels of your head outside your skull, or muscles of your head and neck — or some combination of these factors — may play a role in primary headaches. Some people may carry genes that make them more likely to develop such headaches.

The most common primary headaches are:

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches occur in cyclical patterns or clusters, which gives the condition its name. Cluster headache is one of the most painful types of headache.

Cluster headache commonly awakens you in the middle of the night with intense pain in or around one eye on one side of your head.

Bouts of frequent attacks, known as cluster periods, may last from weeks to months, usually followed by remission periods when the headache attacks stop completely. During remission, no headaches occur for months and sometimes even years.

Fortunately, cluster headache is rare and not life-threatening. Treatments can help make cluster headache attacks shorter and less severe. In addition, medications can help reduce the number of cluster headaches.

Migraine

A migraine headache can cause intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down.

Some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms (aura), such as flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in your arm or leg.

Medications can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. If treatment hasn’t worked for you in the past, talk to your doctor about trying a different migraine headache medication. The right medicines, combined with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, may make a big difference.

Tension Headache
(medically known as tension-type headache)

A tension headache is generally a diffuse, mild to moderate pain in your head that’s often described as feeling like a tight band around your head. A tension headache (tension-type headache) is the most common type of headache, and yet its causes aren’t well understood.

Treatments for tension headaches are available. Managing a tension headache is often a balance between fostering healthy habits, finding effective non-drug treatments and using medications appropriately.

There are other headache patterns that are generally considered types of primary headache but are less common. These headaches have distinct features, such as an unusual duration or pain associated with a certain activity. Although these headaches are generally considered primary, each of them could be a symptom of an underlying disease. These headaches include:

Chronic Daily Headaches

Most people have headaches from time to time. But if you have a headache more days than not, you may be experiencing chronic daily headaches.

The incessant nature of chronic daily headaches makes them among the most disabling headaches. Aggressive initial treatment and steady, long-term management may reduce pain and lead to fewer headaches.

Cough Headaches

Cough headaches are an unusual type of headache triggered by coughing and other types of straining — such as from sneezing, blowing your nose, laughing, crying, singing, bending over or having a bowel movement.

Doctors divide cough headaches into two categories. Primary cough headaches are usually harmless, occur in limited episodes and eventually improve on their own. Secondary cough headaches are more serious, as they can be caused by problems within the brain. Treatment of secondary cough headaches may require surgery.

Exercise headaches

Exercise headaches occur during or after sustained, strenuous exercise. Some activities associated with exercise headaches include running, rowing, tennis, swimming and weightlifting.

Doctors divide exercise headaches into two categories. Primary exercise headaches are usually harmless, aren’t connected to any underlying problems and can often be prevented with medication.

Secondary exercise headaches are caused by an underlying, often serious problem within the brain — such as bleeding or a tumor — or outside the brain — such as coronary artery disease. Secondary exercise headaches may require emergency medical attention.

Sex Headaches

Sex headaches are brought on by sexual activity — especially an orgasm. You may notice a dull ache in your head and neck that builds up as sexual excitement increases. Or, more commonly, you may experience a sudden, severe headache just before or during orgasm.

Most sex headaches are nothing to worry about. But some can be a sign of something serious, such as problems with the blood vessels that feed your brain.

Some primary headaches can be triggered by lifestyle factors, including:

  • Alcohol, particularly red wine
  • Certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates
  • Changes in sleep or lack of sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Skipped meals
  • Stress

Preventative and Abortive Treatment Options:

  • Medication to prevent or relieve the pain
  • Physical therapy referrals
  • Botox therapy
  • Occipital nerve blocks

Don’t live another day with uncontrollable headaches. Visit our Headache Center page for more information on headaches and to schedule an appointment

Video: What You Need To Know About Migraine Headaches

Video: How To Effectively Treat Headaches

From The Headache Center at ADC

Featuring Tiffany Ferrell RN, MSN, FNPC

About The Headache Center at ADC

Headache Center at Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic, P.A.

Click to learn more about The Headache Center

  • Many people suffer headaches on a daily basis.
  • There are many kinds of headache including the following: Migraine, Tension, Cluster, Chronic Daily or Rebound Headaches.
  • Seek help immediately if you are experiencing sudden or excruciating headache pain, or if it’s the first or worst headache of your life.
  • If a headache is causing you to have a sudden change in mood or personality, seek help immediately.
  • A proper diagnosis is crucial for determining headache treatments. That’s why we’ve designed the Headache Center.
  • The Headache Center treatments include: Abortive, Preventative and Physical Therapies.
  • The Headache Center can also use more aggressive treatments including: Nerve Blocks and Botox Therapy.