What’s Causing Your Headache?

From tension to Chronic Migraine, learn the different types of headache.

Health Monitor Staff
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Is it a dull pain that wraps around your head? A throbbing on just one side? Is your headache accompanied by nausea or maybe a fever? The answers make a real difference in determining the type of head pain you’re experiencing and, in turn, your most effective route to relief. Yet headache sufferers are often at a loss, or worse, misidentify and mistreat the culprit.

For example, one study found that 86% of people thought they were having a sinus headache when they were actually suffering a migraine. If headache seems to be a part of your life, read on to find out exactly what’s ailing you.

Tension-type: The most common headache, tension-type headaches usually cause only mild to moderate pain. The discomfort typically begins in the forehead, temples or the back of your head or neck. It creates a tightening band-like sensation around your head, or a feeling of pressure or tightness in head and neck muscles. The headaches often occur after feeling stressed, anxious, fatigued or angry.

Migraine: Migraine begins as a dull ache that develops into a constant throbbing and pulsating pain, often near the temples, as well as the front or back of one or both sides of the head. The pain is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and/or sensitivity to light and noise. Some may see “aura” before the headache strikes.

Chronic Migraine: These migraines occur for more than 15 days a month, for four or more hours at a time, for more than three months.

Sinus: These types of headaches typically cause throbbing pain and a feeling of pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead. The pain will usually worsen if you bend or lie down. They develop when your sinuses become swollen, usually due to allergies or a sinus infection.

Your sinuses will often be blocked, so you may not be able to breathe well through your nose, and your sense of taste or smell may be diminished. If the cause is an infection, you’ll likely have a low fever, and may have green or yellow nasal discharge, a sore throat, soreness in your jaw or teeth, a cough or fatigue.

Rebound: This type of headache occurs if you take acute pain relievers too often (more than twice a week) or use more than the recommended dosage to treat a headache. The problem? As soon as the medication wears off, the headache comes back. As a result, you can be battling a headache almost daily, often being awakened by pain early in the morning. You may also experience neck pain, irritability, difficulty concentrating and depression.

Cluster: Cluster headaches come in groups and typically strike without warning. The head pain, which is severe, often occurs on only one side of the head, and may cause the eye to tear and turn bloodshot, and your nose to run on the same side as the headache. They often begin in the middle of the night and may last for weeks or months. Their cause is not completely known, but researchers believe they may be the result of a chemical reaction in the brain.

March 2014