Types of Headaches

6 January 2022

Most of us have had a headache at one time or another. Interestingly they are divided into primary and secondary types.


This is when the pain in the head is the condition itself rather than by being triggered by something else, like allergies or accident. They come in episodic, which happen sometimes but not consistently and can last from 30 minutes to several hours. Chronic headaches happen often and frequently end up needing some pain management.

  • Tension – This is usually triggered by stress and is a dull ache all over the head. It does not throb.
  • Cluster – It is unknown why these happen but involves incredible pain around or behind one or both eyes. They happen in a series with one following another. They last about 15 minutes to three hours and occur daily for months at a time. For some reason these are more common in men than women.
  • Migraine – These can be extremely debilitating and are often accompanied by nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Usually they start with a visual disruption and auras. Migraines have similar symptoms to strokes, so if you suddenly start having them, get checked out. Women are more likely to suffer with migraines and triggers include foods, hormones, and sleep issues.
  • Ice Pick – These only last a few seconds but feel like a stab. Generally they can occur anywhere in the brain, but if you notice they are always in the same spot, talk with your doctor.
  • Thunderclap – Wham! Just like thunder you all of a sudden have a horrible headache in under a minute. These can be symptoms of other serious conditions, so don’t ignore them.


These usually happen because something else is going on within your body. If they are chronic, finding the primary trigger can mean some treatment options.

  • Allergy or sinus – These are usually in front of the head and around the nasal passages.
  • Hormonal – Women can experience a headache because her hormones are associated with ovulation.
  • Caffeine – We all know what a good jolt of caffeine can do to perk us up. Too much can cause a headache, as well as stopping too suddenly.
  • Exertion – Overworking your body probably sends more blood to the brain and you can end up with a headache. It shouldn’t last more than a few minutes or up to several hours.
  • Hypertension – If your blood pressure is too high, you will probably experience a headache. This is serious and should be treated immediately to prevent a strokes.
  • Rebound – If you use too much over-the-counter pain relievers, you can actually cause more headaches.

If you experience headaches more than 15 days in a month over a three month period, or if your headache lasts more than 2 days, or it greatly increases in intensity, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.

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