Headache definition and facts
- The head is one of the most common sites of
pain in the body.
- Headache or head pain sometimes can be
difficult to describe, but some common symptoms include throbbing, squeezing,
constant, unrelenting or intermittent. The location may be in one part of the
face or skull, or may be generalized involving the whole head.
- Headache may arise spontaneously or may
be associated with activity or exercise. It may be acute onset or it may be
chronic in nature with episodes of increasing severity.
- Headache is often associated with
nausea and vomiting. This is especially true with
- Head pain can be classified as being
one of three types: 1) primary headache, 2) secondary headache, and 3) cranial
neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches.
- Common primary headaches include
tension, migraine, and cluster headaches.
- Home remedies for tension
headaches, the most common type of primary headache, include rest and
over-the-counter (OTC) medications for pain.
- Secondary headaches are usually a
symptom of an injury or an underlying illness. Sinus headaches are considered a
secondary headache due to increased pressure or infection in the sinuses.
- Medication overuse headache
(rebound headache) is a
condition where frequent use of pain medications can lead to persistent head
pain. The headache may improve for a short time after medication is taken and
then recur ("Rebound headache" has been replaced by the term medication overuse
- Individuals should seek medical care for new onset headaches or if headaches are
associated with fever, stiff neck, weakness or change in sensation on one side
of the body, change in vision, vomiting or change in behavior.
What is a headache?
Headache is defined as a pain arising from the head or upper neck of the body. The pain originates from the tissues and structures that surround the skull or the brain because the brain itself has no nerves that give rise to the sensation of pain (pain fibers). The thin layer of tissue (periosteum) that surrounds bones, muscles that encase the skull, sinuses, eyes, and ears, as well as thin tissues that cover the surface of the brain and spinal cord (meninges), arteries, veins, and nerves, all can become inflamed or irritated and cause headache. The pain may be a dull ache, sharp, throbbing, constant, intermittent, mild, or intense.
How are headaches classified?
In 2013, the International Headache Society released its latest classification system for headache. Because so many people suffer from headaches, and because treatment
is difficult sometimes, it was hoped that the new classification system would help health-care professionals make a
more specific diagnosis as to the type of headache a patient has, and allow better and more effective options for treatment.
The guidelines are extensive and the Headache Society recommends that
health-care professionals consult the guidelines frequently to make certain of the diagnosis.
There are three major categories of headache based upon the source of the
- primary headaches;
- secondary headaches; and
- cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches.
The guidelines also note that a patient may have symptoms that are consistent with more than one type of headache, and that more than one type of headache may be present at the same time.