Headaches are very common health issues, and lots of people treat themselves by using basic painkillers, drinking additional water, with rest, or by simply waiting for the headache to go away on its own. As a matter of fact, a headache is among the most common reasons for doctor office visits.
Just about everyone will experience a headache sometime during their life. Most headaches are not caused by serious or sinister conditions. However, people understandably worry if headaches feel different, whether they’re especially severe, particularly frequent or unusual in any other manner. But, the most common concern is whether the headache may be a symptom of an underlying health issue, such as a brain tumor.
The following article discusses headaches generally. It explains the various types of headaches you may experience and describes those very rare situations where a headache may be a symptom of a serious disease.
Types of Headaches
Headaches can be categorized as primary, or they can be classified as secondary, meaning they are a side-effect of another injury or condition.
A healthcare professional can usually determine the possible cause of your headaches from speaking to you and examining you. When they have found the cause then you’ll have the ability to decide the best treatment approach for your head pain symptoms. This may involve taking drugs only when you get the headaches, taking daily medication to stop them altogether, and/or even stopping medication you’re already taking. Very occasionally, headaches may need further diagnosis to rule out more serious underlying causes. Chiropractic care and physical therapy are also commonly utilized to help treat headaches. Below, we will discuss the different types of headaches.
The most common types of headaches, by far, are tension headaches and migraines.
Tension headaches are generally felt as a band around the forehead. They may last for many days. They may be tiring and uncomfortable, but they don’t normally disturb sleep. Most people can carry on working with a tension headache. These often have a tendency to worsen as the day progresses, however, they aren’t usually made worse with physical activities, though it’s not strange to be somewhat sensitive to bright light or noise.
Migraines are also very common types of headaches. A typical migraine is described as a throbbing sensation. Headaches which are one-sided, headaches which throb and headaches that make you feel sick are more inclined to be migraines compared to anything else. Migraines are often severe enough to be disabling. Some individuals will need to go to bed to sleep off their aggravation.
Cluster headaches are extremely severe headaches, sometimes called “suicide headaches”. They occur in clusters, often every day for a number of days or maybe weeks. Then they vanish for weeks on end. These types of headaches are rare and often occur particularly in adult male smokers. They’re intense, one-sided headaches, which are very disabling, meaning they stop routine activity. People often describe them as the worst pain they have ever felt. Cluster headaches are typically one-sided. Patients frequently have a red watery eye on the other hand, a stuffy runny nose and a droopy eyelid.
Chronic Tension Headaches
Chronic tension headaches (or chronic daily headache) is generally caused by muscle tension in the back of the neck and affects women more frequently than men. Chronic means that the problem is persistent and ongoing. These headaches can develop due to neck injuries or tiredness and may worsen with drug/medication overuse. A headache that occurs virtually every day for 3 weeks or more is known as a chronic daily headache or a chronic tension headaches.
Medication-overuse headaches or medication-induced aggravation, is an unpleasant and long-term headache. It’s brought on by taking painkillers usually meant for headaches. Unfortunately, when painkillers are taken regularly for headaches, the body reacts by creating additional pain sensors in the brain. Finally, the pain sensors are so many that the head becomes super-sensitive and the headache won’t go away. Individuals who have these headaches often take an increasing number of painkillers to attempt and feel much better. But, the painkillers may have regularly long ceased to work. Medication-overuse headaches are the most common cause of secondary headache.
Exertional Headaches/Sexual Headaches
Exertional headaches are headaches associated with physical activity. They may get severe very quickly following a strenuous activity like coughing, running, with intercourse, and straining with bowel movements. They’re more commonly experienced by patients that also have migraines, or who have relatives with migraine.
Headaches associated with sex particularly worry patients. They can occur as sex starts, at orgasm, or following sex. Headaches at orgasm would be the most common type. They are generally acute, at the back of the head, behind the eyes or all around. They last about twenty minutes and aren’t usually an indication of any other underlying health issues or problems.
Exertional and sexual intercourse-related headaches aren’t typically an indication of serious underlying problems. Very occasionally, they can be a sign that there is a leaky blood vessel on the surface of the brain. As a result, if they are marked and repeated, it’s sensible to talk about them with your healthcare professional.
Primary Stabbing Headaches
Primary traumatic headaches are sometimes called “ice-pick headaches” or “idiopathic stabbing headache”. The term “idiopathic” is used by doctors for something that comes without a clear cause. These are brief, stabbing headaches that are extremely sudden and severe. They generally last between 5 and 30 seconds and they occur at any time of the day or night. They feel as though a sharp object, like an ice pick, is being stuck into your head. They frequently occur in or just behind the ear and they are sometimes quite frightening. Even though they aren’t migraines they’re more prevalent in those who suffer from migraines, nearly half of individuals who experience migraines have principal stabbing headaches.
They are often felt at the place on the head where the migraines have a tendency to happen. Primary stabbing headaches are too brief to take care of, even though migraine prevention medications may reduce their number.
Hemicrania continua is a major chronic daily headache. It typically induces a continuous but shifting pain on one side of the brain. The pain is generally continuous with episodes of severe pain, which can last between 20 minutes and several days. During those episodes of severe pain there may be other symptoms, such as watering or redness of the eye, runny or blocked nose, and drooping of the eyelid, around precisely the same side as the aggravation. Similar to a migraine, there may also be sensitivity to light, feeling sick, such as nausea, and being sick, such as vomiting. The headaches do not go away but there may be periods when you don’t have any headaches. Hemicrania continua headaches respond to medicine called indometacin.
Trigeminal neuralgia causes facial pain. The pain consists of very short bursts of electric shock-like sensations in the face, particularly at the area of the eyes, nose, scalp, brow, lips or limbs. It’s usually one-sided and is more common in people over age 50. It may be triggered by touch or a light breeze on the surface area.
Occasionally, headaches have underlying causes, and treatment of the headache involves treating the cause. Individuals often fear that headaches are caused by serious illness, or by high blood pressure. Both of these are extremely uncommon causes of headache, really increased blood pressure usually causes no symptoms in any way.
Chemicals, Drugs and Substance Withdrawal
Headaches can be because of a substance, or its withdrawal, for example:
- Carbon monoxide, that is made by gas heaters which aren’t properly ventilated
- Drinking alcohol, with headache often experienced the morning afterwards
- Deficiency of body fluid or dehydration
Headaches Due to Referred Pain
Some headaches may be caused by pain in some other portion of the head, such as ear or tooth pain, pain in the jaw joint and pain in the neck.
Sinusitis is also a frequent cause of headaches. The sinuses are “holes” in the skull which are there to stop it from becoming too heavy for the neck to transport around. They are lined with mucous membranes, such as the lining of the nose, and this creates mucus in response to colds or allergy. The liner membranes also swell and can block the drainage of the mucus out of the space. It subsequently becomes cracked and infected, resulting in headache. The headache of sinusitis is often felt at the front of the head and also in the face or teeth.
Frequently the face feels tender to tension, particularly just below the eyes beside the nose. You might have a stuffy nose and the pain is often worse when you bend forwards. Acute sinusitis is the kind that comes on fast in conjunction with a cold or abrupt allergy. You may have a temperature and be generating a lot of mucus. Chronic sinusitis may be caused by allergy, by overusing decongestants or with the acute sinusitis that doesn’t settle. The sinuses become chronically infected and the nasal linings chronically swollen. The contents of this uterus may be thick but frequently not infected.
Acute glaucoma can cause severe headaches. In this condition, the pressure inside the eyes goes up suddenly and this causes a surprisingly, very severe headache behind the eye. Even the eyeball can feel really hard to touch, the eye is red, the front part of the eye, or cornea, can seem cloudy and the eyesight is generally blurred.
What Types of Headaches are Dangerous or Serious?
All headaches are unpleasant and some, such as headache from medication abuse, are serious in the sense that if not treated correctly they might never go away. But a few headaches are indications of serious underlying issues. These are uncommon, in many cases very rare. Dangerous headaches often occur suddenly, and also eventually become increasingly worse over time. They are more common in elderly people. They comprise of the following:
Bleeding Around the Brain (Subarachnoid Haemorrhage)
Subarachnoid haemorrhage is a really serious condition which occurs when a tiny blood vessel pops on the surface of the brain. Patients develop a serious headache and stiff neck and may become unconscious. This is a rare cause of acute headache.
Meningitis and Brain Infections
Meningitis is infection of the tissues around and on the surface of the brain and encephalitis is infection of the brain itself. Brain infections can be caused by germs called bacteria, viruses or parasites and they are thankfully rare. They cause a severe, disabling headache. Normally, patients may feel sick or vomit and can’t bear bright lights, something known as photophobia. Often they have a rigid neck, too stiff for your physician to have the ability to bend the head down so that the chin touches the chest, even in the event that you attempt to relax. Patients are generally also unwell, experiencing hot, sweaty and overall sick sensations.
Giant Cell Arteritis (Temporal Arteritis)
Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis) is, generally, just seen in people over the age of 50. It is due to swelling, or inflammation, of the arteries at the temples and behind the eye. It causes a headache behind the forehead, also referred to as a sinus headache. Typically the blood vessels at the forehead are tender and individuals detect pain from the scalp when they comb their own hair. Frequently the pain gets worse with chewing. Temporal arteritis is severe because if it’s not treated it can cause sudden loss of eyesight. Treatment is with a course of steroids. The need to keep these steroids is generally monitored by the GP through blood tests, and they are typically needed for several months.
Brain tumors are a very uncommon cause of headache, although most patients with long-term, severe or persistent headaches start to worry that this might be the reason. Brain tumors can lead to headaches. Usually the aggravation of brain tumors exists on waking in the morning, is worse on sitting up, and becoming steadily worse in the day to day, never easing and never disappearing. It can sometimes be worse on coughing and sneezing, as may sinus headaches and migraines.
When Should I Worry About a Headache?
Most headaches do not have a serious underlying cause. However, healthcare professionals are trained to ask you about the signs and symptoms that might suggest your headache needs further diagnosis, just to make certain it’s nothing serious.
The things which would suggest to your physician and nurse that your headache may need additional evaluation include the following. They don’t mean that your headache is severe or sinister, but they imply that the healthcare professional may wish to do some additional evaluations to make sure if:
- You have had a substantial head injury in the previous three months.
- Your headaches are worsening and accompanied with high temperature or fever.
- Your headaches begin extremely unexpectedly.
- You’ve developed problems with speech and balance as well as headache.
- You’ve developed problems with your memory or changes in your behavior or personality in addition to headache.
- You’re confused or muddled along with your headache.
- Your headache started when you coughed, sneezed or strained.
- Your headache is much worse when you sit or stand.
- Your headache is associated with red or painful eyes.
- Your headaches are not like anything you’ve ever experienced before.
- You have unexplained nausea together with the aggravation.
- You have low immunity, for instance, when you have HIV, or are about oral steroid medicine or immune suppressing drugs.
- You have or have had a type of cancer that can spread throughout the body.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
Headaches are extremely common health issues which affect a wide range of the population around the world. Although frequent, a headache which is described to be like no other ever experienced before, may often become a concern. There are several types of headaches which can be caused by a variety of injuries and/or underlying conditions. As a healthcare professional, it’s essential to be able to determine between sinister or dangerous types of headaches and benign types of headaches, in order to decide the best treatment approach. By properly diagnosing the source of a patient’s headaches, both benign and sinister types of headaches can be treated accordingly.
Many headaches, whilst unpleasant, are harmless and react to a variety of treatments, including chiropractic care. Migraine, tension headaches and medication-overuse headaches are very common. The majority of the populace will experience one or more of these. Working out exactly the underlying cause of any headaches through discussion with your doctor is often the best method to resolve them. It is possible to develop a persistent or chronic and constant headache through taking drugs and/or medications that you took to get rid of your headache. Your physician can support you through the practice of quitting painkillers when that is the case.
Headaches are, quite infrequently, an indication of a serious or sinister underlying illness, and many headaches go away on their own.
If you have a headache which is uncommon for you then you need to discuss it with your doctor. You should also speak to your doctor about headaches which are particularly severe or that affect your regular activities, those that are associated with other symptoms, such as tingling or weakness, and those which make your own scalp tender, especially if you’re over 50 years old. Finally, always speak to a healthcare professional when you have an unremitting morning headache which is present for at least three days or is becoming gradually worse.
Remember that headaches are not as likely to occur in people who:
- Handle their anxiety levels well.
- Eat a balanced, regular diet.
- Take balanced routine exercise.
- Focus on posture and core muscles.
- Sleep on two pillows or fewer.
- Drink loads of water.
- Have plenty of sleep.
Anything that you can do to enhance one or more of these aspects of your life will improve your health and well-being and cut back the number of headaches you experience. Make sure to seek the appropriate medical attention from a qualified and experienced healthcare professional in the event of a severe headache unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most prevalent causes for disability and missed days at work worldwide. As a matter of fact, back pain has been attributed as the second most common reason for doctor office visits, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Approximately 80 percent of the population will experience some type of back pain at least once throughout their life. The spine is a complex structure made up of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles, among other soft tissues. Because of this, injuries and/or aggravated conditions, such as herniated discs, can eventually lead to symptoms of back pain. Sports injuries or automobile accident injuries are often the most frequent cause of back pain, however, sometimes the simplest of movements can have painful results. Fortunately, alternative treatment options, such as chiropractic care, can help ease back pain through the use of spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, ultimately improving pain relief.
The information herein on "Benign and Sinister Types of Headaches" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.
Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. In addition, we provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
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