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Types Of Headaches

Updated on October 22, 2011

A headache is a medical condition which is described as an aching which occurs in the entire head or some parts of the head such as temples, mouth, face and the back of head.

A headache may be mild or very severe and can be caused due to various reasons. A headache in general involves the network of nerve fibers which are located in the tissues, muscles and vessels present in the head and the base of the skull.

A mild headache may cause throbbing and aching of temples and the centre of the head and can be alleviated by aspirin or pain killers while a severe headache can be extremely painful and requires special medication.

In medical terms, there are many different types of headaches which are divided on the basis of their cause and degree of pain, but broadly there are two main types of headaches:

  • Primary Headaches
  • Secondary Headaches

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches are very painful and severe and occur due to unknown reasons. Contrary to the secondary headaches, which are explained next, in the primary headaches the headache it self is the main problem.

Due to some unknown factors a searing pain at some parts of head or the entire head occurs. Primary headaches are mostly severe.

Although some reasons such as sudden excitation and deficiency of some substances in the blood level can be called as the reason for these headaches, a considerable answer is still not found.

Soluble Aspirin Tablets
Soluble Aspirin Tablets

Secondary Headaches

The secondary headaches are caused as a consequence of another illness that is occurring on the body, an accident or an allergy.

Secondary headaches occur due to known causes. The severity of secondary headaches depends upon the cause of the headache. Most secondary headaches which occur due to fever or an illness are mild while some may be severe.

However most secondary headaches fall in the category of mildly severe and are far less severe than the primary headaches. 

The primary and secondary headaches are then of following types:

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are perhaps the most common type of primary headaches. In this type of headache half of the head starts aching terribly due to some reasons.

At times the pain becomes so severe that the patient has to be hospitalized. Special medications are required to ease the pain.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are another type of primary headaches. These headaches are more painful and severe than migraines but thankfully are less common and occur only in few individuals.

It has been observed that men are more likely to suffer from it than women. The reason however is still not known.

The pain starts around the temple and eyes and start spreading over one side of the head just like in migraines. The patient has to be immediately hospitalized.

X-ray of a person with Sinusitis.
X-ray of a person with Sinusitis.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are secondary head aches which are caused due to sinusitis, a disease in which an inflammation of the sinus passage around the eyes occurs and it gets blocked.

Sinusitis is a common disease hence these headaches are also common.

In these headaches, along with the forehead, pain also occurs around the eyes, cheeks and ears. Sinus headaches are very painful but not very severe.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are primary headaches which occur in middle aged individuals.

At a certain age their head starts throbbing constantly and the pain can be extremely severe.

The cause is believed to be stress, anxiety and tension.

Headache pills
Headache pills

Rebound Headaches

The rebound headaches are a serious type of secondary headaches which occur as a result of an allergy towards a particular medication. Rebound headaches can be very dangerous or they can be mild.

Mostly these headaches are severe and can be cured only if the person stops taking that very medicine which is causing the headache in that individual.

Ironically most rebound headaches occur due to some headache relieving medicines.

Rebound headaches are likely to occur in individuals who take headache medicines in high dose, who regularly take these medicines and those who frequently use pain killers.

Plain Headaches

Plain headaches are simple secondary headaches which occur due to inorganic factors such as lack of sleep, minor stress, hunger and deficiency of certain nutrients.

Plain headaches are mild and occur in almost every individual.


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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      I think reading about headaches may give me a headache. This is a good categorization of them - I didn't know about rebound headaches - how awful to get a headache from taking a medicine to relieve a headache.