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Headaches 101


What’s a headache?

It’s estimated that 95% of people will suffer from a headache during their lifetime. Watch as Charles Pollack, MD, PhD explains the three types of headaches and ways to relieve them.


Tension Headaches

Over 95% of the population report having tension headaches. Tension headaches can be triggered by physical, psychological and environmental factors. Many researchers believe a tension headache can result when the head, neck or face muscles contract but do not relax. They remain tense or continue to spasm. This compresses blood vessels in the affected muscles and reduces the blood supply there. The resulting pain:

  • Typically last several hours
  • Usually affects the front, top or sides of the head
  • Can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Can cause irritability and disturb concentration
  • Can cause mild sensitivity to light or noise


Cluster Headaches

Cluster Headaches are very severe, relatively rare and must be treated by a physician. Advil is not approved to treat cluster headaches. Cluster headaches recur in groups or cycles (clusters) and affect more men than women. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden, debilitating pain on one side of the head
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose on the same side of the face
  • Restlessness, inability to get comfortable


Migraine Headaches

There are about 20 million migraine attacks happening every day. ‡ Migraines are a common type of headache characterized by a throbbing pain that is usually felt on only one side of the head that can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. In addition to nausea and sensitivity to light, symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue, dizziness
  • Visual disturbances such as bright, flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)
  • Headaches are among the most common pain-related conditions, with one half to three quarters of the world's adults experiencing a migraine or other type of headache in the past year.*

*World Health Organization, Lifting the Burden. Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011. Geneva: World Health Organization; May 2011. ‡