Understanding Your Headaches

Many who suffer from headaches will claim that since it occurs so frequently, it must be migraines. This is a common mistake people – including doctors – misdiagnose headaches, and the subsequent medication they receive does little to help the problem. That is why it is important to be able to understand your headaches and identify the type of headache that you suffer. Here are the five types of headaches you can receive and how to treat each.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type that people will suffer from. It is typified by a constant ache all around the head with specific aches around the temples and the back of the head where it meets the neck. Tension headaches will not keep you out of action; your daily schedule is usually not affected. Over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen are good enough to ease the pain caused by tension headaches. Stress and tense muscles are the regular culprits for tension headaches.

Migraine Headaches

Many people misdiagnose their chronic headaches as migraines, but the problem is that migraines are not normal headaches. In fact, they are a result of a genetic neurological disorder. The following criteria define migraine headaches: 1) at least five previous headaches that lasted between four hours and 72 hours; 2) throbbing pain, one-sided pain, or pain that keeps you from your regular routine; and 3) either nausea or vomiting and extreme sensitivity to bright lights and loud sounds. Remember; just because you have a bad headache doesn’t mean you have a migraine. Migraines are much more serious than a standard headaches.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are defined by recurring headaches that tend to come in groups. These are more common in men than in women and are much more severe than tension headaches. With cluster headaches, the pain is usually on only one side of the head, and it is so extreme in cases that you cannot even get out of bed. Cluster headaches are usually accompanied by a runny nose or a watery eye on the same side of the head. Although there is no cure, painkillers can work to at least ease off some of the pain.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are caused by an infection in the sinuses, and can usually be diagnosed by an MRI or CT scan. The pain is centered on the sinus, so pain is usually felt around the forehead and cheeks around the bridge of the nose. Sinus headaches can be severe, yet not as bad as cluster headaches or migraines, and can be treated by simple antibiotics, or even antihistamines and decongestants.

Rebound Headaches

Rebound headaches are the result of taking too many painkillers (such as aspirin and Tylenol) for previous headaches, as odd as that may sound. Two theories exist as to why rebound headaches occur. On one hand, the constant use of painkillers – over-the-counter or prescription – will create a dependency; hence rebound headaches are a symptom of withdrawal. The other theory is that the constant use of painkillers overstimulates the brain, causing headaches.