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12 types of headache (symptoms, causes and treatment)


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), headaches are extremely frequent . Rather we should say the headaches, as there are many types.

In this article we will analyze the 12 most frequent types of headaches , and we will know their symptoms, causes and possible treatments.

Types of headaches

As we anticipated, the WHO notes that almost all people suffer from headaches occasionally. Even so, not all headaches are the same, nor do they originate from the same causes.

The duration and intensity of pain may vary depending on the cause that caused it . On the other hand, in certain circumstances immediate medical attention may be necessary (for example when it occurs together with neck stiffness, rash, vomiting, confusion, speech problems, paralysis, visual loss or fever greater than 38 ° C).

We are going to see the 12 most frequent or known types of headaches and some of their characteristics.

1. Tension headache

Tension headache feels like a dull and aching sensation that extends throughout the head . It involves sensitivity around the neck, forehead, scalp or shoulder muscles.

It is usually caused by stress, and can be treated with progressive muscle relaxation, EMG biofeedback or over-the-counter analgesics, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen. It has also been seen how caffeine can reduce its symptoms.

2. Migraine

Migraine is an intense pain that feels throbbing (like a heartbeat or throbbing) from the inside of the head . It can last even days if it is not treated. Sometimes it also causes sensitivity to light and sound, as well as nausea and vomiting.

Sleep disturbances, dehydration, hormonal fluctuations, the consumption of certain foods or exposure to certain chemical substances are possible causes of migraine.

In terms of treatment is progressive muscle relaxation , temperature biofeedback (or both together), and triptans are also used, drugs that reduce inflammation.

3. Cluster headaches

Cluster headache consists of a sensation of penetrating pain that occurs around one eye , behind it or on one side of the face. Sometimes it is accompanied by swelling, redness and sweating on the affected side. This pain occurs in series, and each of these episodes can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours, approximately.

The causes are unknown, and are treated with some medications such as: oxygen therapy, sumatriptan or lidocaine. In addition, treatments with corticosteroids, melatonin, topiramate and calcium channel blockers are used to prevent them.

4. Hormone headache

This type of headache appears due to hormonal fluctuations in women , which can cause this type of headache. It is associated with the menstrual cycle, the contraceptive pill or pregnancy. It can be treated with naproxen or frovatripan.

5. Sinus headache

Sinus headache appears as a result of an allergic reaction ; It is also called sinus headache, where the sensation of pain is focused on the front of the head by the pressure of the mucus in the sinus area.

Its treatment is based on the application of nasal sprays with steroids, over-the-counter decongestants such as phenylephrine or antihistamines such as cetirizine.

6. Headache by rebound

This headache consists of a dull or very acute pain (like that of a migraine), similar to tension pain . Appears for the consumption (rather, over consumption or abuse) of drugs such as paracetamol , ibuprofen or aspirin, which have been taken more than 15 days a month.

To relieve it, it is best to stop using the drugs for a period of time.

7. Post-traumatic headache

This headache originates after suffering an injury to the head, which can cause migraine-like pain or tension headaches . It lasts between six and twelve months after the injury. It is a type of pain that can even become chronic.

Given this type of pain, doctors usually prescribe triptans, sumatriptan, beta-blockers and amitriptyline.

8. Headache due to hypertension

Hypertension is the cause of this type of headache , which occurs especially when the blood pressure is quite high. It is a dangerous case and in case of suffering it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention.

9. Headache from exertion

When intense physical activity develops, it is likely to suffer this type of headache , because of an increase in blood flow. This type of headache usually does not last long, and can be treated with common drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

10. Headache for caffeine

Caffeine can also cause headaches, because it acts directly on the brain . This pain occurs when you drink too much caffeine, or when you have withdrawal symptoms (when you have not used for hours and are used to consuming it).

To avoid this, the dose of caffeine can be progressively reduced .

11. Chronic daily headache

It is a type of primary headache, which encompasses a group of headaches characterized by the almost daily frequency of headache . The symptoms of the headache appear more than 15 days a month for at least 3 months.

In most cases, these are people who had previously had migraine or tension headache. They are often accompanied by a high consumption of analgesics and ergotics (usually by self-medication). Like tension-type headache, it can be treated with progressive muscle relaxation and / or EMG biofeedback.

12. Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania

This headache is acute and appears on only one side of the head . It can also cause tearing or nasal congestion. Its treatment consists in the administration of indomethacin (anti-inflammatory medicine), which alleviates symptoms quickly.

Bibliographic references

  • Durá, T. and Yoldi, ME (2005). Recurrent acute headaches: clinical and epidemiological characteristics. Annals of pediatrics, 62 (2): 141-146.
  • Mayo Clinic (2019). Headaches: treatment depends on the diagnosis and symptoms.
  • Watson, K. (2017). 10 Types of Headaches and How to Treat Them. Healthline.
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