- A Visual Guide to Migraine Headaches Slideshow
- Headache and Migraine Triggers Slideshow
- Take the Migraines Quiz
- Headaches FAQs
- Patient Comments: Headache - Effective Treatments
- Patient Comments: Headache - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Headache - Remedies
- Patient Comments: Headache - Causes
- Patient Comments: Headache - Nausea
- Find a local Neurologist in your town
- Headache definition and facts
- What is a headache?
- How are headaches classified?
- What are primary headaches?
- What are secondary headaches?
- What are cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches?
- 17 types of headaches
- What causes headaches?
- What causes tension headaches?
- What are the signs and symptoms of tension headaches?
- How are tension headaches diagnosed?
- How are tension headaches treated?
- What causes cluster headaches?
- What are the symptoms of cluster headaches?
- How are cluster headaches diagnosed?
- How are cluster headaches treated?
- Can cluster headaches be prevented?
- What diseases cause secondary headaches?
- How are secondary headaches diagnosed?
- What are the exams and tests for secondary headaches?
- When should I seek medical care for a headache?
- How do you get rid of a headache? Are home remedies effective for headaches?
Quick GuideMigraine or Headache? Migraine Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment
17 types of headaches
The different types of headaches depend upon the class they belong to. Some common types include:
- Primary tension headaches that are episodic
- Primary tension headaches that are chromic
- Primary muscle contraction headaches
- Primary migraine headaches with aura
- Primary migraine headaches without aura
- Primary cluster headache
- Primary paroxysmal hemicrania (a type of cluster headache)
- Primary cough headache
- Primary stabbing headache
- Primary headache associated with sexual intercourse
- Primary thunderclap headache
- Hypnic headache (headaches that awaken a person from sleep)
- Hemicrania continua (headaches that are persistently on one side only. right or left [unilateral])
- New daily-persistent headache (NDPH) (a type of chronic headache)
- Headache from exertion
- Trigeminal neuralgia and other cranial nerve inflammation
- Secondary headaches due to:
- Structural problems with the bones of the face, teeth, eyes, ears, nose, sinuses or other structures
- Substance abuse or withdrawal
What causes headaches?
Migraine headache is caused by inflammation or irritation of structures that surround the brain or affect its function. While the brain itself has no pain nerve fibers, everything else above the shoulders, from the neck, skull and face, can cause a person to have of head pain. Systemic illnesses, including infection or dehydration, can have associated headache. These are known as toxic headache. Changes in circulation and blood flow or trauma can also cause headache.
Changes in brain chemistry may also be associated with headache: medication reactions, drug abuse and drug withdrawal can all cause pain.
Every person is different so the history of the headache is important. Recognizing patterns or precipitating (foods eaten, stress, etc.) factors, in combination with the physical examination and associated symptoms, can help identify the cause for each individual's specific headache.
What causes tension headaches?
While tension headaches are the most frequently occurring type of headache, their cause is not known. The most likely cause is contraction of the muscles that cover the skull. When the muscles covering the skull are stressed, they may become inflamed, go into spasm, and cause pain. Common sites include the base of the skull where the trapezius muscles of the neck insert, the temples where muscles that move the jaw are located, and the forehead.
There is little research to confirm the exact cause of tension headaches. It is believed that tension headaches occur because of physical stress placed on the body. For example, these stressors can cause the muscles surrounding the skull to clench the teeth and go into spasm. Physical stressors include difficult and prolonged manual labor, or sitting at a desk or computer for long periods of time concentrating. Emotional stress also might cause tension headaches by causing the muscles surrounding the skull to contract.