Headaches are a strikingly common medical complaint that nearly all of us have experienced at one point or another. They are quite often described with vulgar language while individuals experience extreme discomfort during an episode.
Before going into some of the more common types of headaches that individuals face, it is important to state that one should always seek medical attention following any type of trauma affecting the head, neck or spine that causes severe pain or neurological deficiency. This may be indicative of a much more severe problem than a typical headache and could be life-threatening if not addressed quickly.
Despite how common they are, there are a number of complexities that differentiate each episode from one another based on the mechanism of onset, presentation of symptoms, location of pain and potential management for the condition. Below are five of the more common types of headaches that people commonly face:
1. Tension Headaches
Tension headaches affect approximately 3 out of 4 people at some point in their lives and can be brought on by a number of different reasons. Often, they result following emotional distress, stress or strong emotional distraught, or general tension in the neck and shoulders. The pain will usually be focalized in the back and sides of the neck as well as the base of the neck, especially when the muscles of the neck and shoulders start to spasm. Management is best done using over the counter anti-inflammatory medication or heat on the back of the neck. These headaches usually do not persist for long.
Migraines are less common than tension headaches but are widely considered to be much more severe in both symptoms and duration, lasting up to multiple days at a time with little to no relief. While they are not as well understood as other types of headaches, there are a number of triggers that can lead to an episode, such as stress or missing meals. Often there may be visual disturbances along with intense pain on one side of the head. Management is often addressed with medication, either over the counter or prescribed, removal of triggers and escaping to a dark, quiet room.
3. Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches occur when pressure in the sinuses of the head build-up in conjunction with severe congestion. Often, this will occur seasonally as allergies are in full swing. Often, they will present with pain in the front of the head as well as potential earaches. Utilizing allergy medication to reduce sinus symptoms may help reduce the frequency and severity of sinus headaches.
4. Exertional Headaches
Intense physical activity such as running, jumping, heavy weight lifting n may cause exertional headaches. Often, these types of headaches result from a build-up in pressure that occurs while performing activity, causing a strain on the body as a whole but especially the head. They usually subside quickly and may be aided by over the counter medication.
5. Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches are named such because they tend to recur over a period of several weeks. They usually present with pain limited to one side of the head, typically around one eye. In most cases, medication will need to be prescribed to manage the condition and make symptoms more bearable. Often, the individual episodes will last less than 3 hours.
When to Seek Treatment
If you are experiencing chronic headaches or head pain that does not line up with any of the types of headaches listed above, it is advised to seek medical attention to identify the source of your pain.
One of the oldest neurology practices in the Bronx and Westchester, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of neurological conditions including chronic headaches such as migraines. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.