If you struggle with debilitating or reoccurring headaches, then you are not alone. A recent survey by the National Headache Foundation found that over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches. It may come as a surprise then that between those 45 million people, there remain only six major different types of headaches, which are what I’d like to talk to you about today.
I have dealt with excruciating pain from headaches behind my eyes for the past 10 years, and during that time I have seen dozens of medical professionals. I’ve tried more medications and treatments than I can count on my fingers and toes, and yet there’s a chance I could have been able to skip a lo of that if I’d just known more about what kind of headaches I was experiencing. I knew my headaches hurt, I just couldn’t put why or how into words.
This post is for you headache sufferers out there who are like me – ready to finally end your headaches’ control over your life. One of the most important initial stepping stones to gain mastery over your headaches is understanding the different types; it’ll make everything so much easier down the road.
So, without further adieu…
6 Major Types of Headaches
You may remember that in my last entry we learned Why Do I Get Headaches; if you haven’t already read it, you’re recommended to do so now, especially the part about Primary and Secondary headaches.
By far the most common type of headache among adults and teenagers, tension headaches are aptly named for the role that muscular contraction and your stress levels play in triggering them. Tension headaches are known by a steady, unrelenting ache that usually feels like it spreads through at least half of your head. They’re often described as making your brain feel painfully congested or swollen, and they usually originate either at the temples or back of head.
One common belief as to their specific cause is that when you’re stressed you naturally tense up your neck and shoulders, which in turn leads to the headache.
Tension headaches are typically treated with over the counter medication, but you may also wish to pursue a natural headache treatment, such as seeing a chiropractor or practicing yoga.
Another fairly self-explanatory headache type, estrogen levels can trigger headaches and migraines. Hormonal headaches and menstrual migraines go hand-in-hand both in cause and treatment. They’re most commonly experienced right before or during a woman’s period, although I’ve heard of birth control causing these headaches, too.
Generally, they’ll leave you with a splitting pain in the side of your head, but other potential symptoms include nausea and sensory sensitivity (light, sound, even touch). Hormonal headaches are commonly treated with pain killers, foods, or switching birth control if that’s the cause.
These occur because of pressure in the sinus cavities, most commonly during a sinus infection. However, any form of sinus congestion (for example, caused by allergies) or sinus inflammation can lead to a sinus headache. You’ll feel these square between your eyes, and it’ll be a deep, continuous and often throbbing pain.
A sinus infection is always treated with antibiotics, but other sinus headache causes may be treated with antihistamines, decongestants and pain killers. Be warned that taking decongestants for a non-sinus headache will likely make it worse, so don’t self-medicate on this one.
This is where things get so ironic it’s painful, literally…
Do you know how just about every single type of headache listed here includes a treatment of painkillers? Well, rebound headaches are the result of the overuse of just such medication. To treat these, all you can do is stop taking pain killers and stop drinking caffeine (which typically worsen this category of headaches). This is one of the most compelling reasons to pursue natural headache treatments.
When you have a headache behind your eye or eyes that feels something like a pulsating cattle prod, you’re probably experiencing a cluster headache. These are generally the most painful and difficult to manage of the Primary Headaches, and almost always restricted to only one side of the head. Treatment tends to vary on a person-to-person basis, but it’s made more difficult because cluster headaches can go into seasonal remission. You may think you’ve found a cure only to find out that you’re body only momentarily decided to stop troubling you.
The rarest major type of headache, only .001% of the population is affected by cluster headaches, mostly men. We don’t really know exactly what causes them, but we know what’s happening when you experience one. It’s called the trigeminal nerve, and it controls feeling in your face as well as the snot and tear business in your nose and eyes respectively. When it’s activated or pressed on you’ll experience a headache behind the eyes, often accompanied with congestion and red or teary eyes.
A type of headache that is at least potentially genetic, each migraine will plague you from 4 hours to 3 days. You will also typically experience either nausea or sensory sensitivity, although occasionally both. Many people who have dealt with migraines for their whole lives can feel it coming hours before it hits, although usually by that point there’s not much you can do about it.
Relief for migraine headaches is most typically found in over-the-counter pain relievers, although it’s certainly not the best option. Again, I’ll always be the guy to recommend looking into natural treatment.
In addition to the 6 major types of headaches listed here, there are countless subtypes and minor types, 150 of which you will find listed at the bottom of this entry. I know this one got kind of long, but hopefully, you learned something that will help you manage your headaches or at least find the treatment a little bit faster.