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Different Types of Headaches

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Different Types of Headaches

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Read more posts by this author.

March 7, 2021 Read Time - 4 minutes

Different Types of Headaches and How to Treat Them

Having a headache can be anywhere from mildly annoying to completely day-ruining.

What are the different types of headaches? How do you know when it is time for a trip to the doctor? What can you do to help relieve your headache? Here’s what you should know about headaches.

Did you know there are 150 types of headaches? We don’t have room to discuss every kind of headache, but this article will help you narrow down what type of headache you have. We will explain some of the most common varieties, treatment options, and when to see a doctor for a headache. 

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    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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What Causes Headaches?

Your nervous system is what sends pain signals to your brain. With headaches, it’s nerves of your blood vessels and head muscles being switched on and sending those pain signals. Scientists are not sure why these pain signals turn on. 

Some common causes of headaches include:

  • Illness
  • Hormone changes
  • Stress
  • Environment

Tension Headaches

Often caused by stress, tension headaches are a mild to moderate dull, aching (but not throbbing) sensation around your entire head. Your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles may be tender or sore, as well. These are the most common type of headaches and do not typically have other symptoms.

Tension headaches can usually be cured with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol), preferably with caffeine (Excedrin Tension Headache)

If OTC medications are not enough, you can talk to your doctor about a prescription medication such as:

  • Indomethacin
  • Meloxicam (Mobic)
  • Ketorolac

Read: How to Get Rid of a Tension Headache


Migraine Headaches

A migraine is a severe headache. Migraines typically only affect one side of your head and feel like a pulsing on the inside of your head. 

They may last for several days and be accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Sensitivity to light, smell, or sound
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Visual disturbances
  • Abdominal pain

If over-the-counter pain medications do not relieve your migraine symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a medication such as:

  • Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
  • Rizatriptan (Maxalt or Axert)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)
  • Metoprolol (Toprol)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Amitriptyline

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches happen on one side of the face, usually around or behind one eye, consisting of a burning sensation and piercing pain. On the side of the head affected by the pain, the eyelid may droop, the eye may redden or tear up, and the pupil may get smaller. Each headache may last from 15 minutes to three hours, and a person may suffer anywhere from one to four headaches per day, sometimes every day for months at a time.

Treatment options for cluster headaches include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
  • Local anesthetic (lidocaine)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Melatonin
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Calcium channel blockers

Sinus or Allergy Headaches

You can suffer from a headache due to allergies or a sinus infection. These headaches typically affect your cheekbones, forehead, or the bridge of your nose. They are also usually accompanied by other sinus symptoms such as a runny nose, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.

Many people who think they are suffering from sinus headaches are actually experiencing migraines, so you should talk to a doctor about your suspected sinus headache because the treatments are different. 

Treatments for sinus headaches include:

  • Nasal steroid sprays
  • OTC decongestants
  • Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE)
  • Antihistamines

Headache Treatment

When you are experiencing a headache, all you can think about is how to get rid of a headache. 

There are some home remedies for a headache, like: 

  • A cold or hot compress
  • Dim the lights
  • Hydrate
  • Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation 

But the best way to relieve a headache will usually be taking some kind of medication, depending on what type of headache you have. 

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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When to See a Doctor for a Headache

If your headache feels unusually severe or lasts for a more extended period of time than usual, you should speak with a doctor.

If any of the following symptoms accompany your headache, you should seek immediate medical treatment since they can be signs of potentially life-threatening illnesses:

  • Stiff neck
  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Paralysis or vision loss
  • The worst headache you have ever experienced
  • A fever higher than 100.4° F

Think you may need to speak with a doctor about your headache symptoms? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a prescription today.


Read More About Headaches 


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

MedlinePlus. Tension headache. Accessed February 18, 2021, at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000797.htm

Mayo Clinic. Migraine. Accessed February 18, 2021, at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201

Mayo Clinic. Cluster headache. Accessed February 18, 2021, at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cluster-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20352080

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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