5 Types of Headaches You Need to Know About

If you overindulged the night before, you understand what’s behind the throbbing in your head. Headaches can cause considerable misery, and when they come out of nowhere, they can scare you. Could the pain signify something else? 

While most head pain is benign, it can nevertheless wreak havoc on your productivity and quality of life. Occasionally, it becomes downright disabling. Keep reading to learn more about the five types of headaches and how you can find relief. 

1. Tension Headaches

Your boss awaits you in their office, but the disgruntled client on the phone shows no indication of ending their rant quickly. Your temples start throbbing. You probably have a tension headache coming your way, full steam ahead.

Fortunately, while this type of headache can prove downright unbearable, it’s also highly responsive to holistic and medicinal treatments. It usually manifests through feelings of tightness and pressure across your forehead and sides of the head. 

To ease tension headaches, relaxation techniques work well. Try using 2-to-1 breathing, where you exhale for twice as long as you inhale. This action activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps you to relax. 

Over-the-counter pain medications or a combination of turmeric and black pepper in tea can sometimes ease the ache. Other relaxation techniques, such as practicing yoga, likewise help. 

2. Migraines

Migraines cause intense, pounding head pain, but that’s only one symptom of the disorder. Those afflicted may also experience nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances and debilitating fatigue. In extreme cases, such as hemiplegic migraine or basilar migraine, individuals may lose partial or full control of their limbs or lose consciousness.

Sensitivity to light and sound is another migraine hallmark. Some people who are susceptible to the disorder might find bright or fluorescent lights or noisy environments triggering. The other senses get involved — normally pleasant smells, like dinner cooking, can bring on nausea. 

Unfortunately, many people with migraines suffer in silence even though it’s the seventh most disabling condition worldwide, according to the Migraine Trust. Those who don’t have the disorder often confuse the state with a tension headache and dismiss it as no big deal. The fact that the disease occurs only periodically in many suffers compounds the stigma. 

3. Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches earned the nickname “the suicide headache.” According to research from the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, people during the initial phase of an attack, show higher odds of increased suicidal ideation.

This form of headache presents sudden, severe sharp pain that may occur as many as eight times daily. The term “cluster” refers to the fact that these attacks repeatedly happen in a short timeframe. Researchers remain unsure precisely what causes this disorder, but those with migraine disease are more prone. Some physicians believe an overreliance on pain medication may cause this variety to appear as part of a rebound effect. 

4. Hypnic Headaches

Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep — but hypnic headaches produce anything but sound slumber. These headaches wake you up at night, typically around the same time. Talk about an unpleasant alarm clock. 

The defining characteristic beyond the unwanted wakeup call is a throbbing pain across both sides of your head. Some people with the condition experience migraine-like nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. 

Experts remain unsure what causes hypnic headaches, although they classify them as a primary headache disorder. They generally strike those over the age of 40, and they tend to occur between 1 and 3 a.m. Caffeine before bed helps some, while others find relief through over-the-counter pain relievers. 

If you have hypnic headaches that cause insomnia, you could increase your risk for other health disorders and accidents due to fatigue. Talk to your health care provider about medications that might help you get your zzzs. 

5. Trigeminal Neuralgia

Your trigeminal nerve’s three main branches run along the side of your face, and when it becomes irritated, you can experience electrifying, sharp pain in your temples, cheeks or jaw. Often, the mechanism occurs through touch — brushing your teeth or shaving can bring on an attack. 

Unfortunately, over-the-counter pain relievers often don’t touch this agony. However, several treatments exist for trigeminal neuralgia. Your health care provider may prescribe a drug like gabapentin, and if that proves ineffective, a rhizotomy can surgically deaden the nerve behind the ache. 

You can differentiate this type of headache by its location. If you feel it in your teeth, it might be a cavity or cracked tooth — or trigeminal neuralgia. A trip to the dentist can rule out an orthodontic cause. 

Do You Have One of These 5 Types of Headaches? 

If you suspect you have one of these five types of headaches, talk to your health care provider. The sooner you seek treatment, the earlier you can experience some relief.