What Type of Headache Do You Have?
By Jennifer B. Buckley

Do you have a throbbing sensation on only one side of your head or neck? Do you feel pain in your sinuses or is the pain more generalized throughout your entire head? Are your eyes sensitive to bright light? By answering these and other question about the source and symptoms of your headache, you and your physician will be able to uncover the type of headache you have and which treatment or medication will work best. Finding the best treatment option for you or your care recipient includes, going into a doctorís appointment prepared with details about your headache. It is becoming increasingly essential to have this information readily available for your doctor given todayís time limitations on visits. 

Unknown to many, there are basically three categories a headache can fall under: Tension-type, Vascular, or Organically caused, according to the National Headache Foundation fact sheet. 

  • Tension-type- An ache located where the head and neck muscles meet. There are two kinds of tension-type headaches, episodic and chronic. Episodic tension-headache is recurrent headache episodes lasting minutes to days. The pain is typically pressing or tightening with mild to moderate intensity, bilateral in location and is not made worse with routine physical activity. Chronic tension-type headaches are present for at least 15 days per month for at least 6 months. The pain is typically pressing or tightening with mild to moderate intensity, bilateral in location, and is not made worse with routine physical activity.

  • Vascular- The headache category that includes, migraines and cluster headaches, and is thought to involve abnormal function of the brain's blood vessels or vascular system. Symptoms of migraine headaches include: vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.

  • Organically-caused- Evidence that a more serious complication exists such as: a tumor or infection. The pain is mostly dull and general in quality and can last anywhere from a short to long period of time. 

Before going to see your physician, The National Headache Foundation recommends keeping a diary about you or your care recipientís headaches. If you or your care recipient is currently seeking treatment for your headache, record that information as well. The diary should include specific details about your headache including: 

  • Information about your headache and general medical history.

  • Record and track the attacks and what you did to treat them, include:

  • Date

  • Length

  • Severity

  • Symptoms (i.e. vomiting or pain between eyes)

  • Triggers (i.e. after you ate chocolate)

  • Impact on your life (i.e. amount of days lost at work)

  • Record what medication you took (i.e. over-the-counter sinus medicine)

  • Write down when you took the medication

  • If it was effective in relieving pain or symptoms

  • How long the medication worked

By learning the triggers and patterns of your headache, you will feel more in control and less of a slave to pain. It will also enable you and your doctor to prescribe the best treatment option for you or your care recipient. Advances in biofeedback, relaxation, and other preventative techniques offer migraine sufferers a means to prevent a headache rather than just treat one after itís onset.

Information was provided by the National Institute of Health and the National Headache Foundation.


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