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Headache
Headache

WHICH TYPE OF HEADACHE IS CAUSING YOU PAIN?

There are several different types of headache – for example, tension headache, migraine, and cluster headaches. Each different type of headache has its own characteristic symptoms. Headache pain can be described as dull and throbbing or sharp and localized, and can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.1 Understanding which type of headache you have can help to effectively treat the symptoms, and may be useful in helping prevent future headaches.

Tension Headache

Tension headaches are the most common form of headache in adults.2,3 This type of headache is often associated with muscle tightness and tenderness in the head, face and scalp, and neck pain often accompanies tension headache.2-4 Any activity causing the head to remain in one position for a long period of time, such as computer or microscope work, or fine work with the hands, can cause this type of headache. Sleeping in a cold room, or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position, may also trigger this type of headache.4

Father Playing Guitar For His Son

Other triggers of tension headache include:4

  • Physical stress or injury
  • Emotional stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Alcohol or caffeine use
  • Excessive smoking
  • Illnesses such as a cold, the flu, or sinus infection
  • Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Eye strain
  • Fatigue or overexertion

Tension headaches can:3-5

  • Result in mild-to-moderate pain, although generally not severe enough to prevent daily activities such as walking
  • Feel like a tight band of pressure around the head
  • Be felt equally on both sides of the head
  • Last from 30 minutes up to 7 days
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Migraine Headaches

In migraine headaches, the pain is usually restricted to one side of the head, and may be described as a throbbing pain of moderate to severe intensity. Many migraine sufferers may become temporarily sensitive to light and noise, and may also experience nausea and vomiting.1,6

Migraine headaches can:1,6,7

  • Last from a few hours to a few days, with recurring episodes
  • Run in families
  • Be more common among women than men
  • Be brought on by various triggers
  • Be aggravated by routine physical activity (e.g. walking or climbing stairs)

Identifying and managing migraine triggers can reduce the risk of a migraine attack.

Migraine headaches appear to be caused by changes in the nerve pathways and chemical signals in the brain, which affect blood flow in the brain and surrounding tissues. A number of different triggers can cause these changes to occur, but the exact chain of events remains unclear.6

Migraine triggers may include:6

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking or exposure to smoke
  • Loud noises or bright lights
  • Odors or perfumes
  • Exercise or other physical stress
  • Missed meals
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Certain foods or food ingredients
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Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are severe headaches of sudden onset, which often occur at night, and tend to recur at the same time of the day or night. The name “cluster” headaches refers not to the location of the head pain, but rather to the grouping of the attacks over time. This type of headache can recur regularly over a period of time.8-10

  • Cluster headaches can:8-10
  • Be described as intense, burning, sharp pain, which is usually localized to one side of the head
  • Usually be felt around the eye, temple or neck
  • Worsen as time passes, lasting from 15 minutes to three hours
  • Include symptoms such as eye swelling, tearing and redness, and blocked or runny nose on the side of the head that is affected

Men are more likely to suffer from cluster headaches than women.9,10

References

1. Freedom T. Classification of headache. Dis Mon 2015; 61: 214-7.
2. Bendtsen L, Ashina S, Moore A, Steiner TJ. Muscles and their role in episodic tension-type headache: implications for treatment. Eur J Pain 2016; 20: 166-75.
3. Fumal A, Schoenen J. Tension-type headache: current research and clinical management. Lancet Neurol 2008; 7: 70-83.
4. US Medline Plus. Tension headache. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000797.htm.
Accessed 19 September, 2016.
5. Bendtsen L, Jensen R. Tension-type headache. Neurol Clin 2009; 27: 525-35.
6. US Medline Plus. Migraine. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000709.htm.
Accessed 20 September, 2016.
7. Diener HC. Headache: insight, understanding, treatment and patient management. Int J Clin Pract Suppl 2013: 33-6.
8. Becker WJ. Cluster headache: conventional pharmacological management. Headache 2013; 53: 1191-6.
9. Meyers SL. Cluster headache and trigeminal autonomic cephalgias. Dis Mon 2015; 61: 236-9.
10. US Medline Plus. Cluster headache. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000786.htm.
Accessed 20 September, 2016.

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