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  • Dr. Mark Freund

Headache Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

types of headaches

Headaches are a very common condition that most people go through. They can be throbbing, constant, sharp, and debilitating. Here’s what you need to know about the most common types of headaches, how to find out if you have one, what you can do to prevent them, and how to treat it.

Types of Headaches

There are two main types of headaches - primary and secondary. A primary headache is one that is not associated with any disease, and a secondary headache is caused by an underlying disease.

Different types of headaches can occur for different reasons. Every type of headache has its own symptoms. Therefore, they may not have the same treatments.

If you are experiencing persistent headaches, consult a doctor immediately. They will diagnose the possible causes and treat them accordingly.

Cluster Headaches

cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are a type of primary headache characterized not only by severe headaches but also by severe tension in all parts of the body. They occur suddenly and are accompanied by severe pain that can bring tears to the eyes. This is a type of primary headache that usually feels like a throbbing on the sides of the head or back or around the neck. They occur over a period of several weeks to months. These headaches are called cluster headaches because they occur in clusters and can wake you up from your sleep. You will get a headache attack that lasts somewhere between 15 minutes and 3 hours. The cluster phase can last from 2 weeks to 3 months.

These headaches tend to disappear for a short time after the treatment. Sometimes, they do not disappear at all in the first few days or weeks after treatment.


Migraine is often described as “throbbing” pain in the head, neck, shoulders, back, and neck. It usually happens once or four times a month. You might feel constant throbbing and severe headaches on either side of your head for days at large. More often than not, it is confused with other types of headaches because of its varying symptoms.

If someone has migraines, they may have a pale look on their face, get dizzy, have a fever or blurred vision, and upset their stomach. Migraines can cause severe pain that can result in a seizure.

Indigestion and vomiting usually occur. Some people may feel pain for several days or even weeks after their first migraine. Some behave as if the pain is coming from behind or one eye to the other or even from one side of the face to the other.

Tension Headaches

Tension Headaches normally have no other symptoms but can cause moderate to severe pain for a few days or weeks.

Sinus Headaches

A sinus headache is caused by sinusitis. It occurs when the cavities in the head, known as the sinuses, become inflamed and cause headaches. Sinus headaches are characterized by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other symptoms of sinusitis. The nasal discharge that comes from the nose is yellow or green and can indicate a sinus infection.

Post-Traumatic Stress Headaches

Post-traumatic stress headaches can start as early as two weeks after a traumatic brain injury or other traumatic events. The dull pain can get worse over time. If it does not improve after a few weeks, call your doctor. You may also experience lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, slight exhaustion, and irritability.

head injury and headache

Exercise Headaches

When you are active, the muscles in your head, neck, and scalp need more blood, leading your blood vessels to swell to supply it. The result is pulsating pain in the side of the head, which can last 5 minutes or up to 48 hours. This usually happens during physical activity, and it can cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

Chronic Headaches

A Hemicrania continuum is a chronic, persistent headache that almost always affects the same side of the face or head. The pain with this type of headache varies in severity. The symptoms include: tired red eyes, contracted iris, intolerable pain with any physical activity, or when consuming alcohol. They can occur daily or be remitting where you experience it for several months before it goes away and then comes back.

Menstrual Migraines

These headaches can be caused by altered hormone levels during pregnancy or menopause. They are called menstrual migraines and can occur in the first weeks of pregnancy, during menstruation, or in the middle of a menstrual cycle. The hormonal changes can cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

New Daily Persistent Headaches (NDPH)

managing headache

It can start with a sudden increase in blood pressure, heart rate, or blood sugar level, or a change in the number of blood vessels in your body. For some people, the pain is severe and often difficult to treat, but for others, it is moderate, often with mild symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and exhaustion. Others share symptoms such as sensitivity to light. Some people also suffer from tension headaches, which are the result of stress, anxiety, or other stressors.

Rebound Headaches

There is also talk of “drug overdose” for headaches, and if the headaches do not disappear or are severe, you should see your doctor. A short, piercing, intense headache that usually lasts only a few seconds but can occur every few hours in a day is considered a rebound headache. This can come as constant headaches, which are often worse in the morning.

Spinal Headaches

People often call it the worst headache of your life. If you get a headache after the spinal fluid leaks in your spinal cord or there is a block in the epidural, talk to your doctor. Some doctors call this a stinging headache because the procedure pierces the membrane surrounding the spinal cord.

Although we believe that patients should be aware of the various types of headaches, including migraine and their symptoms, we should remember that an accurate diagnosis can only be made by a qualified doctor. Even so, headache symptoms can help your doctor figure out what kind of headache you have.

When to See a Chiropractor

when to see a chiropractor for headache
  • If you notice that your headache is more frequent than normal or that you have several tension headaches per week, make an appointment with your chiropractor.

  • If over-the-counter medications or rest do not help you feel better, or if you have two or more debilitating headaches in a month, see a chiropractor to investigate other treatments.

  • If you’ve had a serious head injury.

  • If your headache has no serious cause, yet it reoccurs.

Your doctor will try to identify the cause of the headache and its possible treatment options, and they may recommend a combination of other treatments once your symptoms have been managed.

Headache Triggers and Causes

The pain you feel during a headache is due to a combination of two things: the pain signal in your brain and the brain’s response to that signal. It is unclear how this signal is turned on or off at all. The main symptoms of headache are a pain in the head and face, which can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and even seizures.

Others can be caused by other conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. These can include infections, colds, and fever. Skipping a meal or taking too many medications can also cause headaches. Too much physical activity can also trigger migraines in adults; however, the first step is to consult your doctor. Other possible triggers are environmental influences such as the air in the house, the sun and wind, dust, smoke, heat, and humidity.

Migraine Triggers

Headaches, especially migraines, can be hereditary. If a parent has migraines, there is a high risk that their child will also experience migraines. If only one parent had a history of headaches, the risk drops to 25 to 50 percent.

what triggers migraines

Doctors do not know exactly what causes migraines, but one theory suggests that the sequence of changes is caused by an electrical charge problem with the nerve cells.


Most people do not need a specific diagnostic test, but it is important to make your description as detailed as possible. Every detail can be traced back to help your doctor diagnose the problem. Give your doctors a list of things that make your headache worse and help you feel better. Once you get your headache diagnosed correctly, you can start the right treatment plan for your symptoms. You will be physically examined and asked about the symptoms you have, how often they occur, and the triggers.

Focusing on where exactly in the head you are hurting and on the accompanying symptoms can help your doctor determine the type of headache you are suffering from, which will lead to more effective treatment options and better treatment outcomes for you.

headache diagnosis

The tricky thing is that there are different types of headaches and disorders, and many with similar symptoms such as migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. The most common are primary headaches, characterized by severe pain in the head, especially around the eyes. Knowing what kind of headache you have, whether you have inherited migraines or not, can make all the difference in finding relief faster. If you learn to recognize the symptoms associated with headaches, you can define whether it is a normal headache or something more serious that requires urgent medical attention.

If your headache symptoms worsen or become more frequent after treatment, ask your doctor to refer you to a headache specialist or even a neurologist. Your doctor may advise you to take other tests to provide a more accurate diagnosis such as an MRI scan, an EEG, or a brain scan. Doctors sometimes look for problems in the brain that could cause headaches.

Managing Headaches

Most often than not, headaches are only the warning sign that might be a hint towards serious problems. Don’t disregard it; take it seriously. A headache diary can help you note patterns and changes in the attacks. Be honest about what works and what doesn’t. Try to be patient, and know that it may take some time before your doctor finds the best treatment plan for you. It is important to stick to healthy habits that are good for you and avoid obvious detriments while you are being treated.

Treating Headaches

The first step in treating headaches and pain is to recognize that there are many types of headaches that have different symptoms and causes. Some are generalized, meaning the whole head is affected, while others, such as cluster headaches, typically affect more specific areas. There are many treatment options for headaches and migraines. Your doctor can help you identify the triggers to help prevent headaches. Although there is no specific cure for migraines, some treatments or lifestyle changes can help treat symptoms and prevent future episodes.

headache treatment

What kind of headache treatment you need depends on many things, including the type of headache you get and the severity of the headache. You could also be referred to a headache specialist for further tests. Your chiropractor will draw up a treatment plan that meets your specific needs, and when you begin your treatment program, you can track your symptoms better, and manage pain levels and symptoms of other diseases. Make sure you schedule a follow-up appointment so your doctor or chiropractor can see how you are doing and make changes to your treatment program if necessary.

Headaches are normally treated with medication, stress management programs, acupuncture and other chiropractic treatments but it can sometimes be more complicated than most people realize. The key to avoiding headaches is to find out what triggers them and take the right steps to minimize or avoid them.

At Natural Care Chiropractic, we are committed to providing the most up-to-date and accurate information about headaches, migraines, and treatment options. We describe the very rare situations where headaches are actually a symptom of a serious illness and explain the different types of headaches you may experience. For more information on how to get rid of headaches, visit Natural Chiropractic Clinic today. Your doctor or chiropractor will be able to distinguish between migraines and other types of headaches and recommend appropriate treatment options.

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