Headache Symptoms – Distinguishing the Most Common Headache Types

How to differentiate most common headache types

You know you are experiencing head pain, but what kind of headache is it? We’re going to take a look at the eight most common headache types. Discussing the headache symptoms may help you to identify the type of headache that you are experiencing.

#1 Tension Headaches

The tension headache is by far the most common headache type. What are the telltale tension headache symptoms?

  • Dull, achy pain
  • Pain is felt around the head as though a band was pressing in
  • Neck pain or tenderness

While tension headaches are not usually severe, chronic tension headaches (occurring 15 days or more per month) can become a more difficult condition to deal with.

#2 Migraine Headaches

Migraines are a neurological condition more than a headache, but we included them on our list since they are common (about 12% of adults) and many people don’t know the difference. Migraine and headache differences include the fact that migraines don’t have to include a headache as a symptom (although about 85% of cases do). Some of the most common migraine symptoms are:

  • Pulsing or throbbing pain
  • Sensory sensitivity
  • Neck pain before or during the attack
  • Nausea and vomiting

#3 Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches may be the most severe headache of them all. Pain is one-sided, and the side of the head and face affected may experience swelling, redness, and sweating. The eye on the side of the pain will tear, and congestion may also be present on that side of the head. The headaches occur as a series of episodes that may last for a few minutes or a few hours. One headache follows another over a period of days and up to several months. This is the only headache type that affects more men than women.

#4 Sinus Headaches

These are headaches that are caused by sinus congestion or infection. Sinus headache symptoms include:

  • Pain in the sinus areas above and below the eyes
  • Congestion
  • Discolored mucus

Migraines can also present with sinus congestion. It is estimated that up to 90% of sinus headaches are actually misdiagnosed migraines.

#5 Caffeine Headaches

Have you missed your daily cup of joe? A headache may be on the way to remind you about it. Of course, too much caffeine can also lead to a headache. Caffeine is a stimulant, so both withdrawal and overdose can trigger a headache. It is safest to limit caffeine intake so that dependence and withdrawal do not occur.

#6 Rebound Headaches

These may be the most insidious headaches of all. Also called medication overuse headaches, rebound headaches can be caused by both over-the-counter and prescription pain medications. Rebound headaches can mimic the symptoms of tension headaches or even migraines depending on their severity.

How can you tell if you are suffering from rebound headaches? Cutting off the pain medication and seeing how many fewer headaches you have is the only way to know for sure. Most headache medications are designed to be used occasionally, so be sure to check the packaging and not to exceed the maximum use. Some medications may cause rebound headaches even if taken just 2-3 times per week on an ongoing basis.

#7 Hormone Headaches

Headaches occur when there is a major fluctuation in hormone levels in the body. For women, this occurs every month, so it is no wonder that most headache types are more common for women. This can also cause pregnant women or women going through menopause to experience more headaches or migraines.

#8 Hypertension Headaches

Headaches that are brought on by high blood pressure pose the most immediate threat and may require emergency medical attention. Hypertension headache symptoms include:

  • Pain on both sides of the head
  • Pain that increases with activity
  • Pulsating pain
  • Chest pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Blurry or doubled vision

Relieving Headache Symptoms Naturally

If you suffer from the headache types noted above and are seeking a natural form of care for headache symptom relief, we’d like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care. What is upper cervical chiropractic and how can it help with headaches and migraines?

Upper cervical chiropractic involves precise measurements of the top two bones of the neck (C1 and C2) accompanied by gentle and long-lasting adjustments. Modern diagnostic imaging is used to pinpoint misalignments to hundredths of a degree. Low force corrections ensure the safety of patients ranging from infants to the very elderly. But what does the neck have to do with your headaches?

Many headache types have neck pain as a symptom, and some misalignments are so slight they don’t even cause pain but can still lead to headache symptoms. For example, a C1 misalignment can affect brainstem function, limit blood flow to the brain, or prevent proper drainage of cerebrospinal fluid. These factors can all lead to headaches or migraines.

Some upper cervical chiropractic research has even shown a connection between a misalignment and blood pressure, so really any of the types of headaches above may potentially be helped by upper cervical chiropractic. Rebound headaches, in particular, may be reduced if this natural care helps you wean yourself off the medication causing the headaches.

If you are ready to get control over your headaches, find an upper cervical chiropractor in your area. A no-obligation consultation may be your first step down the path to fewer and less severe headaches. You may even be among those who find complete headache relief after this underlying issue is corrected. Find a local practice to learn more about what upper cervical care can do for you.


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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.