Different Kinds of Headaches You Can Get, and How to Treat Each One

Apr 16, 2022 By Madison Evans


Most people experience headaches at some point in their lives. A headache is defined as severe pain in the head or face, and it can be sharp, dull, constant, throbbing, or continuous. You can treat headaches with medication, biofeedback, stress management, and medications.

Headaches can be more complex than people realize. Different types of headaches can present with different symptoms and require different treatments. Knowing the type of headache you have will help you and your doctor finds the best treatment and possibly even prevent them from happening.

Different Headaches with Treatment

Your doctor will usually be able to diagnose the cause of your headaches by speaking with you and thoroughly examining you. Once the doctor has identified the cause, you can then decide how to reduce or eliminate the headaches. You may need to take medication for the headaches only, or you might have to stop taking certain medications. These are some types of headaches:

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches can be felt across the forehead or as a band. These headaches can last several days. Although they can be tiring and uncomfortable, they are not disruptive to sleep. Tension headaches are common and can be managed by most people. Although they aren't usually worsened by physical activity, it is not uncommon for them to become more sensitive to bright light and noise.

Tension headaches are more common in the morning and tend to get worse with each passing day. A headache that results from sleeping in an uncomfortable position and causing a sore neck would be an exception. Tension headaches can be felt on either side of the head (called symmetrical), but most commonly on the front. These headaches are also known as pressure headaches. These headaches can disrupt work and concentration, but they are rarely enough to make you go to bed. You can easily treat them with painkillers.


Migraines are very common; they are usually one-sided and throbbing. Migraines are more common than any other type of headache. Migraines can be severe enough to make life difficult. Some migraine sufferers need to go to sleep to ease their headaches.

Migraines can last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days. Migraines can be made worse by sound or movement. Even if the pain does not seem severe, patients often feel sick (nausea) or vomit. Patients often find that bright light, TV, and television worsen their headaches. The majority of migraine sufferers experience 1-2 attacks per month.

Rest, sleep, darkness, and quiet can all help with migraines. If you feel fine, drinking water and painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen may be helpful. Many people discover that they aren't and take special medication for migraines. These medications may consist of tablets that you take for headaches. Some people use a daily tablet to prevent migraines.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches can be described as severe headaches; they are also known as suicide headaches. Cluster headaches can occur for several days or even weeks. These are rare and more common in male smokers. These are severe, one-sided headaches that can be very debilitating and prevent you from engaging in regular activities. Cluster headaches tend to be one-sided. Cluster headaches are usually unilateral. Patients may experience a watery, reddened eye on one side and a stuffy nose. Cluster headaches require treatment by your doctor.

Chronic Headaches Every Day

Chronic tension headaches, also known as chronic daily headaches or chronic tension headaches, are usually caused by muscle tension at the back of your neck. This condition affects more women than men. Chronic refers to a condition that is ongoing and persistent. These headaches may be caused by tiredness or neck injuries. They can also be exacerbated by medication misuse (see below). Chronic daily headaches occur almost every day for at least six months. This type of headache can be treated with physiotherapy, avoiding painkillers, and sometimes by antidepressant medication (many of these medications are effective against chronic headaches).

Stabbing Headaches

Stabbing headaches can also be called icepick headaches or 'idiopathic stab headaches'. Doctors use the term "idiopathic" to describe something not caused by a disease. These headaches are brief and stabbing but can be severe and sudden. These headaches can last anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds and feel like an icepick is being stuck in the head. These can often be found in the ears or behind the ears and can be very frightening. They aren't migraines, but they are more common in migraine sufferers. Nearly half of migraine victims get primary stabbing headaches. These headaches are most often felt at the spot where migraines occur. Although they are difficult to treat, primary stabbing headaches can be treated with headache prevention medication.

What causes headaches?

Migraine headaches are caused by irritation or inflammation of structures around the brain that affect its function or surround it. Head pain can be caused by anything above the shoulders and associated with systemic illnesses such as infection or dehydration, called toxic headaches. Headaches can also be caused by trauma or blood flow and circulation changes.

Changes in brain chemistry can also cause headaches. Drug abuse, medication reactions, and withdrawals all can cause pain. Each person is unique, so it is important to know the history of headaches. Recognizing patterns and precipitating factors (foods consumed, stress, etc.) is important. These factors can be combined with a physical exam and the associated symptoms to help pinpoint the exact cause of each headache.


Talking to your primary care physician is important if you experience headaches every day. They can either help you create a treatment plan or refer you to a specialist. If you have a severe headache, are experiencing vision loss or unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting, or headaches lasting more than 72 hours, you should seek immediate medical attention.

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