Knowing what kind of headache you have matters.
Different headaches respond to different treatments.
The first question about your headache is, “Do I have a primary or a secondary headache?”
Secondary headaches are headaches that are caused by other disease processes, some relatively minor (dehydration, sinus infection, ear infection, flu); some quite serious (encephalitis, aneurysm, stroke). Your health care provider would need to evaluate your symptoms and examine you in person to rule out more serious ailments.
Primary headaches are headaches where the major illness is the headache. For some reason, there is overstimulation of the pain-sensitive structures in your head.
The most common primary headaches are:
- Cluster Headaches (can involve any part of the head, usually consists of sharp, stabbing pain, can be debilitating)
- Migraine Headaches (typically starts as a dull pain, but then worsens, can involve any part of the head, often includes light sensitivity and nausea)
- Tension Headaches (typically a dull ache or pain, most often in the front of the head)
Primary headaches can be caused or exacerbated by the following:
- Poor or insufficient sleep
- Insufficient hydration
- Eating certain trigger foods
- Alcohol use or abuse
- Extended periods of discomfort, including poor positioning, strain, excessive work or exercise
Primary headaches can be treated with over the counter medications, a variety of prescription medications, biofeedback, physical therapy, complementary medicine, and relaxation techniques.
In order to get relief from your headache, it is critical to narrow down the type of headache you are experiencing.