Understanding the Different Types of Headaches

Understanding the Different Types of Headaches

There are more than 150 different types of headaches, which can range from debilitating and chronic migraines to less serious headaches due to temporary issues, such as caffeine withdrawal or a hangover.

If your life seems to be at the mercy of recurring headaches, our team at Pain Medicine Consultants can help. The first step on the road to relief is figuring out what’s driving your head pain. We start that process here with a quick look at the more common types of headaches.

Primary versus secondary headaches

One of the first pieces of the puzzle is to figure out whether your headache is a primary condition or the result of another problem, in which case we classify your head pain as a secondary headache.

For example, secondary headaches are those that stem from another issue, such as a headache you might experience when your sinuses are congested. And headaches due to caffeine withdrawal or the temporary dehydration of drinking too much alcohol are also secondary headaches.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on primary headaches, which means that the head pain is the condition and not related to anything else.

Most common primary headaches

If your headaches are the primary condition, our next step is to figure out which type. There are many different headaches that qualify as a primary condition, but the most common include:

Tension headaches

These types of headaches are the most prevalent. The hallmarks of a tension headache are pain behind your eyes and discomfort in your head and neck, as if your head is caught in a vice-like grip.


Migraines are incredibly complex headaches that come with a unique set of symptoms that can differ from one person to the next, but often include:

Approximately 16% of American adults suffer from migraines and severe headaches.

Cluster headaches

These headaches are considered to be among the more painful. Cluster headaches, as the name implies, occur in clusters that can last from weeks to months before they go into remission. 

The common signs of a cluster headache are severe pain on one side of your head, watery eyes, and nasal discharge.

Treating your headache

Once we determine which type of headache is affecting you, we can take the steps necessary to help bring you relief. More often than not, successfully treating chronic head pain involves a combination of approaches that can include:

To figure out which solutions are best for your headaches, please contact one of our locations in Corte Madera, Pleasanton, and Pleasant Hill, California, for expert diagnosis and treatment.

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