11 Types of Headaches and How to Get Rid of Them

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Tips on how to get rid of some of the worst pain out there: headaches.

Headaches By Type

Headaches can be immobilizing, making it impossible to think or doing anything. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that "nearly everyone" has an occasional headache and that five percent of adults have daily headaches, making them a chronic health condition. This article will go into 11 different types of headaches and what you can get rid of them, though there are dozens more.

1. Migraines

What is a migraine?

Usually limited to just one side of the head, a migraine is a type of headache that ranges in moderate to severe pain that is often throbbing and intense. Migraines have been known to last for days and disrupt your daily life, sometimes to the point that you have to go to the emergency room.

About 20 percent of people also get something called an aura before a migraine hits. An aura is a "warning symptom" that comes in the form of "flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg."

Women are about three times more likely than men to get migraines according to the Mayo Clinic. People that have PTSD are more likely to develop migraines than those without it. Migraines have also been known to run in families.

Symptoms to look for:

• light or sound sensitivity

• experiencing an aura

• vomiting

• flashing lights or spots in your vision

• pain behind your ears, eyes, or temples

What helps a migraine?

• Discovering what your migraine triggers are. Some of these can include drinking alcohol, menstruation or other hormonal changes in the body, anxiety, and contraceptives.

• Reducing stress in your life as much as possible.

• Taking preventative headache medications to reduce frequency.

• Talking to your doctor about your options if nothing seems to help.

2. Tension

What is a tension headache?

If you've ever had a headache that was dull, aching, and seemed to fill up your entire skull, it was likely a tension headache. With tension headaches, the pain is often worse around your temples, forehead, or the back of your head, and your neck and shoulder muscles are probably sore as well.

Caused by stress, tension headaches occur when muscles contract due to stress, depression, anxiety, or even a head injury. While anyone can get a tension headache, adults and older teens are most likely to get them, and women are more likely to get them than men.

Symptoms to look for:

• All-over dull pressure inside the head that is typically worse in the scalp, back of the neck, temple, and shoulder muscles

• Difficulty sleeping

What helps a tension headache?

• Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen or something like this specifically for tension headaches. Talk to your doctor if these don't help you.

• Discovering what triggers your tension headaches. Common triggers include physical and emotional stress, eye strain, drinking alcohol, too much or too little caffeine, smoking, and fatigue. Many jobs and activities that involve sitting and hunching can actually trigger tension headaches, including typing at a desk.

• Gently massage scalp, neck, temples, and shoulder muscles to try to relieve some tension and pain.

3. Sinus

What is a sinus headache?

It is pretty common for people to be mistakenly diagnosed with a migraine or sinus headache while really have the other type of headache because many of the symptoms overlap. What makes a sinus headache different, however, is the fact they are caused by your sinuses becoming swollen from an infection or allergy. This causes mucus to get backed up in the sinuses, often causing a sinus infection and subsequent sinus headache. You can also get sinus headaches from a cold or upper respiratory infection.

Symptoms to look for:

• Pain around your eyes, forehead, cheeks.

• Sore throat, post nasal drip, and sore throat.

• Loss of smell, along with nasal congestion and bad, "sick person" breath.

• History of migraines.

What helps a sinus headache?

• Prevention is the best way! Wash your hands often, get a flu shot, and drink enough fluids.

• Talk to your doctor about the best way to keep your allergies in check to prevent sinus headaches. Nasal sprays, allergy shots, and antihistamines are common ways.

4. Hormone

What is a hormonal headache?

Hormonal headaches are headaches caused by hormonal changes in the body of folks that have a uterus. Menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause, or oral contraceptives, or hormone replacement therapy can call cause hormonal headaches. People that have migraines tend to get hormonal headaches. Changes in hormones is often a trigger.

Symptoms to look out for:

• fatigue

• joint pain

• constipation

• acne

• salt, alcohol, or chocolate cravings

• less appetite and lack of coordination

What helps a hormonal headache?

• Taking triptan or an NSAID like ibuprofen after the headache hits.

• Talking to your doctor about preventative medications if the hormonal headaches are frequent.

• Hormone therapy, such as a birth control pill.

5. Cluster

What is a cluster headache?

Cluster headaches are a series of painful headaches that occur in a series. Individual headaches last from 15 minutes to three hours and, just as one headache clears up, another follows. They usually occur the same time every day and most people with cluster headaches will have between one and four headaches a day. Cluster headaches are more common in spring and autumn and cis men are more likely to get them.

Symptoms to look out for:

• A constant, deep pain occurring on one side of the head, normally located behind or near the eye. It may spread to your temples, forehead, neck, shoulders, or nose on the same side.

• Light sensitivity

• Nausea

• Watery or red eyes, droopy eyelids, or swelling around the eye.

What helps cluster headaches?

• Preventative headache medications.

• Pain medications, including sprays and injections, prescribed by your doctor.

• Oxygen treatment and topical capsaicin cream have also been found to be helpful.

6. Dehydration

What is a dehydration headache?

Caused by not having enough fluids in your body, a dehydration headache can range in pain from minor to severe. What makes your head hurt during a dehydration headache is the brain temporarily shrinking or pulling away from the skull. The brain returns to normal again once it gets rehydrated.

Symptoms to look out for:

• Extreme thirst

• Infrequent, dark urination

• Fatigue and dizziness

• Dry mouth

• Low blood pressure yet increased heart rate

What helps a dehydration headache?

• Drink fluids, especially something with electrolytes.

• Avoid exercise and heat to avoid sweating.

• Take an OTC pain reliever for the pain like one here.

7. Caffeine

What is a caffeine headache?

Did you know that both too much and not enough caffeine can cause headaches? Fun, right? Because caffeine is a stimulant, changing the amount caffeine you drink each day can give you a headache if you don't consume the same amount.

Symptoms to look out for:

• Consuming caffeine when you usually don't, or consuming less than normal.

Pain behind the eyes and forehead.

What helps a caffeine headache?

• OTC pain relievers such as this.

• Consume more caffeine if you're experiencing withdrawal.

8. Rebound

What is a rebound headache?

Rebound headaches are caused by overusing medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, and acetaminophen. The pain and intensity of rebound headaches vary and are more likely to occur if you use OTC medications more than 15 days of the month, causing more headaches rather than less.

Symptoms to look out for:

• Daily headaches that often wake you up in the morning.

• Headaches that get better once you take pain killers, but return when the pain killers wear off.

• Nausea

• Listlessness

• Irritability

• Memory problems and difficulty concentrating

What helps a rebound headache?

• Avoid headache triggers if possible.

• Eat, sleep, and exercise regularly.

• The only treatment is to wean off the medication causing the rebound headaches. The pain will probably worsen at first, but will get better in the long term. It is also a good idea to "a preventative daily medicine that doesn't cause rebound headaches and prevents the headaches from occurring to begin with."

9. Hypertension

What is a hypertension headache?

Sometimes, high blood pressure can cause a hypertension headache, which is a signal that the body is in distress and means your blood pressures has become "dangerously high."

Symptoms to look out for:

• An often pulsating headache on both sides of the head that worsens with "any activity."

• Vision changes

• Nosebleeds

• Chest pain

• Shortness of breath

• Numbness

What helps a hypertension headache?

• If you think you're experience a hypertension headache, you should get emergency help as quickly as possible. Once your blood pressure is under control, the headache should go away and shouldn't recur as long as you blood pressure remains under control.

10. Post-traumatic

What is a post-traumatic headache?

Post-traumatic headaches are that occur after a head injury. They can feel like tension headaches or even migraines and sometimes last up to 12 months after you were injured.

Symptoms to look out for:

• Difficulty concentrating

• Dizziness

• Insomnia

• Personality changes

What helps a post-traumatic headache?

Tricyclic antidepressants to reduce both depression and pain.

• Prescription migraine medications

• Reducing alcohol and nicotine

11. Exertion

What is an exertion headache?

Physical activity causes the blood flowing to your skull to increase, putting added pressure on the blood vessels in the brain and making your head hurt. Exertion headaches normally don't last very long and go away by themselves within a few hours.

Symptoms to look out for:

• Throbbing pain in both sides of the head

• Occur during or immediately after strenuous physical activity.

What helps an exertion headache?

• Taking a break from exercise. If it goes away, you can probably go back to working out, but warm up again first.

• Figure out if any exertion headache triggers, such as dehydration, caffeine earlier in the day, or sleep deprivation.

• OTC pain killers like one here.