Headaches: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Treatment & Prevention

Headaches: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Treatment & Prevention

What are headaches?


A painful and uncomfortable feeling or throbbing sensation in any part of your head. Many people experience headaches in their lifetime. It may be because of mundane lifestyle routine imbalance like lack of sleep, poor diet, dehydration, or maybe because of a head injury or any other condition.



Headaches can be caused by a lot of factors. It also depends on the type of headaches.

Headaches can be caused or triggered by biological and environmental factors like:


  • Alcohol consumption
  • Allergy or sinus
  • Loud music
  • Hormonal changes
  • Caffeine overuse, dehydration, skipping meals
  • Changes in the sleep cycle
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Turbulence or jet lags
  • Genetics or hereditary


Types of Headaches


There are two main types of headaches:

1. Primary headaches - have three subtypes of headaches

2. Secondary headaches - may have up to 150 diagnosable subtypes.


1. Primary headaches

Primary headaches are not caused by any condition like injury, disease, disorder, or any other condition. They are the condition.

They might be triggered by some specific situation. There is not much known about Primary headaches and their causes.

The three subtypes of primary headaches are


Tension Headaches

  • It is the most common of all.
  • The name itself is explanatory, tension headaches feel like a tight tension or like a tight band squeezed around the head.
  • It increases the tenderness in the pericranial muscles which then pulse and spasm with blood painfully.
  • Reported triggers include dehydration, stress, and hormonal changes.


Migraine Headaches

  • This is a recurring type of headache with painful and severe, throbbing pain on one side of the head or forehead. 
  • Vomiting, nausea, and extreme light sensitivity are also often present.
  • They can last for hours or days and can affect daily life. 
  • These can be so intense that the brain overloads with electrical energy which can cause auras.


Cluster Headaches

  • Cluster headaches are a rare type but are most painful with intense discomfort or stabbing sensation around one eye or side of the head.
  •  These can last for weeks, or months with a periodical gap that can last up to years.


2. Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are a symptom or are caused by an underlying condition or disease that can trigger the pain receptors in the head. 

There may be many causes of secondary headaches, the most common include:


Acute sinusitis (nasal and sinus infection)

  • In acute sinusitis, the spaces inside the nose or sinuses in the nose become swollen and inflamed. 
  • The area around the nose and eye might feel swollen with a throbbing headache or facial pain.


High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • It is a common condition in which the force of blood against the artery walls is high. 
  • These come with the symptom of headaches.



  • When the body doesn’t get the required amount of water or when the body losses more water than taken and the lost water or fluid isn’t replenished, it causes dehydration.


Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

  • TMJ is a hinge or joint connecting the skull and jaw. It enables us to talk, chew, and move our jaw from side to side, up and down. 
  • When you tense your jaw or grind your teeth, the pain can spread to other TMJ muscles, side, and top of the head resulting in a headache.


Medication overuse

  • The long-term excessive use of medication to treat headaches can cause medication overuse headache also known as “rebound headache” or “medication withdrawal headache”.



  • Headaches are common and widespread. Some types of headaches don’t need treatment. 
  • They generally are short-term and mild but some are severe and affect daily life. 
  • But treatment options are available to help get relief and make it manageable. 
  • The treatment is based on the type of headache and the underlying cause.


Acute treatments

This treatment helps in treating headaches and their symptoms after it starts. It includes:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Nasal sprays


Preventive treatments

These types of treatments are taken regularly to limit the onset of headache and its symptom. It includes:

  • Antiseizure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Injectable medications, such as Emgality
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Calcium channel blockers


How To Get Rid Of A Headache


There are also alternative treatments besides medication that can help in reducing the severity of headaches and their occurrence.

  • Vagus nerve stimulators are mobile devices that send mild electric signals to stimulate the vagus nerve through the skin.
  • Heat therapy
  • Diet changes, maintaining a healthy diet
  • Massages
  • Acupuncture
  • Oxygen therapy


Lifestyle changes that can help with headaches include:

  • Keeping the body hydrated, drinking enough fluids
  • A regular diet with proper nutrition
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding caffeine overuse
  • Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, sleeping enough and not too much
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Try to Learn and Practice Stress Management.
  • Even Some people find meditation and relaxation exercises more helpful.



Preventive measures to avoid the frequent occurrence of headaches can help get some relief. 

  • If the headaches are frequent, it's better to look out for triggers that may cause them.
  • Identifying trigger points can help prevent headaches. 
  • Like when you stress too much or sleep less, drink alcohol, increase caffeine consumption, etc.
  • If headaches are still getting worse and more severe, it's better to seek help from a doctor. 
  • They can identify the cause or trigger and help treat it appropriately.
  • Drink more and more water to avoid dehydration, especially if you vomited earlier.
  • Rest in a quiet room if possible.
  • Place a cool and warm cloth on your head.
  • Avoid drinking coffee, caffeinated drinks, or smoking.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Try to sleep more and take a rest.


When To Call Doctor


Call the local emergency number if:

  • You are experiencing "the worst headache of your life."
  • You have speech, vision, or movement problems or loss of balance, especially if you have not had these symptoms with a headache before.
  • You have a fever with your headache.
  • A headache starts suddenly or is explosive in nature.


Schedule an appointment with your doctor or call your provider if:

  • Your headache patterns or pain changes.
  • Treatments that once worked but are now no longer helpful.
  • You are experiencing side effects from your medicine.
  • You need to take pain medicines more than 3 days a week.
  • You are taking birth control pills and have migraine headaches.
  • Your headaches are more severe when lying down.


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