There many types of headaches, each with their own set of symptoms and causes. Read about the different types of headaches, their causes, and treatment here.


One of the most common medical complaints, headaches come in a variety of types. Headaches can affect almost anyone regardless of their race, gender, or age. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 50 percent of adults globally suffer from headaches every year.

The main causes of headaches can be emotional distress or stress. Even so, medical disorders such as anxiety, migraines, depression, and high blood pressure can also lead to headaches. Often, people with chronic headaches have difficulty attending school or work.

Types of Headaches

The International Headache Society (IHS) categorizes headaches into two distinct categories.

• Primary Headaches: These are stand-alone illnesses that occur due to problems with/ over activity of pain-sensitive structures in the head, such as muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.

• Secondary Headaches: These occurs when the pain-sensitive nerves in the head are stimulated by another condition like blood clots, alcohol-induced hangover, dehydration, or influenza.

Within each category of primary and secondary headaches, there are different subsets of headaches. The next section breaks these down.

Tension Headaches

A common form of primary headache, tension headaches begin slowly in the middle of the day. People experiencing tension headaches feel:

• A dull, but constant, ache on both sides of their forehead.

• As if a tight band is around their heads.

• Pain spreading from or to the neck.

There isn't a specific time frame on how long tension headaches last. They can range from several hours to several days in duration.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are severe headaches accompanied by a throbbing and pounding pain. The pain usually concentrates itself on a single side of the head. Moreover, there are various types of migraine headaches as well.

Chronic migraines occur for more than 15 days a month. whereas hemiplegic migraines happen with symptoms that resemble a stroke. Some migraines occur without any head pain at all. Symptoms like nausea, dizziness, or vision issues occur instead.

Rebound Headaches

Rebound headaches result from excessive use of medications. Medication-overuse is, in fact, one of the most common causes of secondary headaches. Rebound headaches typically start early in the day and continue throughout the day.

Taking pain medication may improve a rebound headache. However, symptoms may worsen again after the medication's effect wears off. Rebound headaches can also lead to:

• Restlessness

• Reduced Sleep Quality

• Neck Pain

• Nasal Congestion

Thunderclap Headaches

Thunderclap headaches are sudden and abrupt. Described as the “worst headaches in life,” they happen quickly and reach maximum intensity within a minute. Thunderclap headaches also don't last for more than 5 minutes.

Thunderclap headaches may be a symptom of underlying health problems with blood vessels in the brain. Thus, it is important that you get prompt medical attention at the earliest.

Headache Treatment

The treatment for headaches varies according to the type and cause. For secondary headaches, the headaches will improve once the underlying illness is treated. Not all headaches are indicators of serious medical condition. Most can be treated using over-the-counter-medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.

Some natural remedies that may help treat some headaches are mild exercise or a hot shower.

When To See A Doctor

Not all headaches are symptoms of serious illnesses. Any time a headache occurs after a trauma you should consult a doctor. You should consult a doctor for any headache accompanied by the following symptoms:

• Drowsiness

• Vomiting

• Slurred Speech

• Convulsion

• Fever

• Facial Numbness

• Weakness in Arms or Legs

• Confusion

For care or an accurate diagnosis, you can always reach out to BASS Primary Care in Walnut Creek. We are here for you with our panel of qualified doctors and clinicians to assist with your health needs.

At BASS Primary Care Walk-in Clinic, it's Your Health, Your Schedule.