Different Types of Headaches

While any pain emanating from the head is technically “headache”, optimum treatment of painful symptoms first requires determining the type of headache. This can then hopefully help identify the cause of the headaches, especially if they are recurring.

Preventing the onset of headache, where possible, will always have better outcomes than managing the pain using analgesics. Of course, this is usually easier said than done.

There have been approximately 150 different headache categories determined, many of which have similar or overlapping signs or aspects. Certain distinguishing factors are used to accurately diagnose the type of headache being suffered.

Although there are many types of headaches, the following are the most common headaches diagnosed today, and the ones that would affect most people.

Chronic Daily Headaches or Tension Headaches

These kinds of headaches are by far the most reported headache. They are more commonly experienced by teenagers and adults, rather than very young children.

Tension headaches are characterized by feelings of vice-like pressure, often near the temples. They are often accompanied by muscle contractions in the neck and shoulders that last for a long period.

These headaches are also known as chronic non-progressive headaches.


These headaches are described as a throbbing, pounding, ‘brain-piercing’ pain that can be moderate to intense. In addition to pain, symptoms may include an upset stomach and nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to odor, light and/or noise, pale complexion and blurred vision.

Medical professionals are unsure why some people experience migraines. Preventing migraine incidence mostly involves identifying potential triggers, which are often dietary or environmental. For those who suffer regular attacks, keeping a diary can be beneficial. Reviewing a diary of foods eaten and activities conducted prior to migraines can provide correlations that may help avoid future occurrences.

Migraines can be debilitating and last from 4 hours to 3 days. Unfortunately, some people experience them regularly, such as one to four times a month.

Cluster Headaches

These are the most severe type of headaches and are the least common. For those who suffer this type of headache, the pain is excruciating, constant and feels never-ending. Most sufferers cannot lay or sit still during an episode, as the pain is so severe. They will usually pace for as long as they can. Often the pain is situated in the eye region or behind one eye. It generally does not change sides.

The name originates from the characteristic grouping of attacks. They are described as having multiple migraines at once. Hence, a ‘cluster of headaches’.

During a cluster period, these headaches may last from for weeks or months.

Most cluster headache sufferers know when their cluster episode is about to begin, as it may occur regularly at the same time every year. During the rest of the year they may only suffer with migraine headaches, but this often quite bearable for a cluster headache sufferer.

These headaches may stop occurring or go into remission for years or months; however, they may recur at any time.

Mixed Headache Syndrome

Mixed headache syndrome refers to a combination of tension headaches and migraine. These kinds of headaches can be experienced by both children and adults. They are often called transformed migraines.



Sinus Headaches

Symptoms include constant, compressed pain, which is felt in the bridge of the nose, cheekbone region and forehead. Typically, the pain intensifies with changing head movement suddenly or straining. Additional symptoms include: facial swelling, nasal discharge, fever and a sensation of fullness in the ears.

Allergy Headache Reactions

Having a headache reaction after consuming a particular food or beverage, or wearing or being exposed to a certain perfume or cleaning product, may be an indication of some kind of sensitivity.

Many work places and public places such as schools, libraries and office buildings have designated themselves as a ‘scent free zone’ to eliminate potential triggers for the people who are there.