How Can You Tell What Type of Headache You Have?

Posted by celticfife - 04/20/08, 12:41 pm



The type of headache you have is decided by many things.

How intense the pain is:


Tension headache can run the gamut in pain.

Sinus headaches also can be from mild to severe. A sinus infection will cause considerably more pain than simply congested sinuses.

Migraines are generally moderate to severe. (Keep in mind that just because you usually get a moderate migraine doesn't mean you will always have a moderate one.)

Cluster headaches are considered the most painful of all headaches.


What the quality of the pain is? [Is it an ache, a pressure, a throb, a stab]


The location:

Tension headaches, where they are a product of muscle and neck tension, are generally felt stretching across the fascia of the head: across the temples like a band, pulling at the forehead, or involving the musculature of the neck and base of the skull.

Sinus headaches will generally be felt in the forehead, in the face on either side of the nose.

Migraines are usually one-sided, although they can be located on both sides of the head. Basilar Artery Migraines can start at the base of the skull.

Cluster headaches are also one-sided, and tend to involve eye pain more than anything else.


The other symptoms:

It becomes very important to look at the symptoms surrounding the headache. Migraines and Cluster headaches, in particular, have noted symptoms. Examples of this are: the nausea/vomiting and aura of migraines that are specific to migraines. Cluster headaches can cause one eye to tear up constantly, and one nostril to become congested. [There are threads in other areas of the group that describe the various symptoms of these types of headaches].

The length of time:


Tension headaches and sinus headaches last until the muscles relax or the sinus pressure is relieved.


Migraines will last from 4-72 hours, with the average length being 24 hours.


Cluster headaches are considered short in length - from 15 minutes to 3 hours, averaging no more than 30 minutes, but attacks come in clusters. So while people will get a pain free reprieve, they'll begin to have those 30 minute attacks over and over, usually at the same time of day as the previous attack. [Example: Your cluster headache begins at around 9pm every day for a month.]




So, above are the main categories of headache. It should be noted that there are other types of headache. Just some of them are below:

Hemicrania Continua

This type of headache is one-sided only, persisent and rare. It is continuous, of moderate severity, although sometimes it increases to severe intensity. It can combine both symptoms related to migraine (throbbing pain, nausea/vomiting, light and sound sensitivity) and cluster headache (the constant tearing up of one eye and constant runniness of one nasal passage, ptosis [drooping eyelids]). It is consistently treated well with Indomethacin, a strong NSAID.

Chronic Daily Headache

Chronic Daily Headache can be its own category, a category of transformed migraine, and caused by medication overuse.


New Daily Persisent Headache

NDPH is its own rare type of headache which hardly any treatment available. All that is truly known is that when people are diagnosed - they know the exactly day their headache began.

Exertional Headache/Post-Coital Headache (headache after orgasm)

Headaches (or migraines triggered by) exercise or intercourse.

Cervicogenic Headache

A headache (or migrainous headache) that begins in the base of the skull. Many people have migraines triggered by cervicogenic headache, and the people who tend to have the most relief from physical therapy or chiropracty tend to be those who have cervicogenic headache.





There are two other categories of head pain that are not considered "headache." These are Occipital Neuralgia and Trigeminal Neuralgia, two types of head pain characterized by piercing, throbbing or electrical type pain the flares directly along the main nerve branches. In occipital neuralgia, the flare goes up the occipital nerve from behind the ear on one side of the head, over the top of of the head or through the middle of the head, stopping at the head. Trigeminal neuralgia is the same except it is generally qualified by most sufferers as more severe, and is harder to treat because of where the nerves are located, which are inside the face near the cheekbone, eye and forehead. Like sufferers of cluster headache, people with trigeminal neuralgia often beg to die.


Treatment for both of these types of neuropathic disorders involved rest and ice, NSAIDs, anti-epileptic medications and antidepressant medications used to treat neuropathy, muscle relaxants, nerve blocks and Botox, and microvascular decompression surgery, balloon compression surgery, as well as radiofrequency rhizotomies.







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