Skip to main content

3 Common Types of Headaches and What Causes Them

Headache

Young man suffering from strong headache.

If you have ever experienced a headache, then you know just how unmanageable one can make your day. Often times, headaches can seem to come out of nowhere, disrupting a productive day or the time you may be spending with a loved one. For many, the first instinct may be to take a pain reliever, as it can help reduce whatever head tension you may be experiencing. Sometimes people may only need to rest or simply hydrate as a method to get rid of their headache. However, understanding what factors may or may not be the cause of your headache could be important for the next time medicine or sleep aren’t helping you get relief. In this article, we discuss three common headaches one may experience, the common causes of headaches, and the ways in which you can help relieve your symptoms.

1. Tension Headaches

One of the most common headaches people experience are tension headaches.i One of the best indicators that you may be experiencing a tension headache is if you’re feeling a squeezing pain on either side of the head.ii The severity and frequency of tension headaches can vary based on the individual, but it is important to monitor how severe the headache is, as it may be a sign of a more serious condition. Tension headache causes can be linked to many things, such as extreme fatigue and emotional stress, or when people hold a considerable amount of tension in their neck or jaw.iii For those that get occasional tension-type headaches, an over-the-counter pain reliever such Advil Liquid Gels can help you take care of the pain.iv Home remedies such as a long, warm shower, a heating pad, or short nap can also help provide you with relief from the headache.v

2. Migraines

Another type of headache that can be more severe than a tension headache is a migraine. Many neurologists agree that a migraine is caused when the brain’s blood flow is changed significantly.vi It is common for someone who has a migraine to have neurological symptoms called an aura.vii The aura can cause tingling on the side of your face, as well as cause visual problems such as sparkles or flashing lights.viii

Common causes of headaches like migraines can include things like fatigue, a dramatic change in weather, and stress. Migraine headache causes can also be dietary, such as a change in the amount of caffeine you consume, skipping a meal, drinking certain types of alcohol, and eating chocolate.ix

3. Cluster Headaches

Another type of headache that’s less common, but still severe, is a cluster headache. This type of headache is properly named, as the headaches come and go in clusters. This means that when you’re dealing with a cluster headache, you’ll experience one to eight headaches a day over a few months.x Usually cluster headaches are concentrated on one side of the head and cause severe pain, watery eyes, and a runny nose.xi

Cluster headache causes are still unknown, though some scientific research suggests that abnormalities in the hypothalamus can cause such headaches.xii Though causes of cluster headaches aren’t associated with triggers like certain foods or stress, drinking alcohol while experiencing a cluster headache can make matters worse.xiii

Though the onset of a headache can really cause a disruption to your day, it’s important not only to treat the headache, but to understand what’s causing it. Headache causes may vary from person to person, but keeping track of your stress levels, what foods you’re putting in your body, and how much sleep you’re getting could help you identify when your next headache might be. For more information about headaches check out the Advil Resources Center for more articles, tips, and tricks on making pain a distant memory.

 

SOURCES

i. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 2, paragraph 2 in source PDF.

ii. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 2, paragraph 3 in source PDF.

iii. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 2, paragraph 3 in source PDF.

iv. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 2, paragraph 4 in source PDF.

v. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 2, paragraph 4 in source PDF.

vi. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 1 in source PDF.

vii. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 5 in source PDF.

viii. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 5 in source PDF.

ix. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 3 in source PDF.

x. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 4 in source PDF.

xi. Headache: When to worry, what to do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 4 in source PDF.

xii. Cluster Headache. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cluster-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20352080. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 4 in source PDF.

xiii. Cluster Headache. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cluster-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20352080. Accessed on 7/16/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 3, paragraph 6 in source PDF.