Headache Types: Which One Do You Suffer From?

Different types of headaches

Almost everyone has had a head pain at one time or another. In fact, if someone told you they had never experienced head pain, wouldn’t you find it hard to believe? The head is one of the most common sites of pain in the entire body. Headaches can display in multiple ways:

  • Throbbing
  • Squeezing
  • Constant
  • Unrelenting
  • Intermittent
  • Vice-like
  • Pounding
  • Throbbing

In addition, the pain may be in one part of the face or skull or all over the entire head. Head pains may arise spontaneously or may come about after activity or exercise. They may happen once or twice and never again for a long time, or they may be chronic with or without attacks increasing in intensity.

Types of Headaches

There are three classifications of head pains:

  • Primary - tension, migraine, and cluster headaches
  • Secondary - a symptom of an underlying illness, an injury (ex: sinus headaches), or a structural problem in the neck (dental pain, infections, infected sinuses, brain bleeds, meningitis, or post-concussion headaches)
  • Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, or other types - Cranial neuralgia is an inflammation of one of the 12 cranial nerves coming from the brain controlling the muscles and bringing sensory signals to and from the head and neck, such as trigeminal neuralgia

Medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches happen when you take too much pain medication and, in turn, it causes a head pain that is worse than the original head pain.

Here is a list of 17 different kinds of headaches:

  • Tension headaches that are episodic
  • Tension headaches that are chronic
  • Muscle contraction headaches
  • Cough headache
  • Migraine headaches with aura
  • Migraine headaches without aura
  • Stabbing headache
  • Thunderclap headache
  • Primary
  • Primary paroxysmal hemicrania (a kind of cluster headache)
  • Trigeminal neuralgia and other cranial nerve inflammation
  • Head pain from exertion
  • Hypnic headache (awaken you from sleep)
  • Hemicrania continua (persistently on one side only)
  • New daily-persistent headache (chronic headache type)
  • Secondary head pains caused by:
    • Disorders
    • Substance abuse or withdrawal
    • Sinuses or other structures
    • Structural problems with the bones of the teeth, eyes, ears, face, nose, or sinuses

Let’s take a close look at some of these head pains and what causes them. Then we will discuss how to find natural relief.

Headache Types and What Causes Them


Migraines are a little understood medical condition that is actually neurological in nature and has a head pain as one of its main symptoms. It is thought to be brought on my inflammation or irritation of the structures that surround the brain. The brain itself cannot feel pain as it has no nerves. However, the nerves and muscles connected to the neck, face, skull, and face can all lead to pain in the head. Changes in blood flow and cerebrospinal fluid flow due to trauma can also cause migraines. In addition, alterations in brain chemistry can bring on headaches. If you have migraines, it is recommended that you keep a migraine diary to try to track your triggers and consequently avoid these triggers in the future.

Tension headaches

The most frequently occurring kind of headache, tension headaches are likely due to the contraction of the muscles covering the skull. When these muscles are stressed, they become inflamed and then go into spasms causing pain. Locations of pain with this headache type are the temples, the neck muscles, forehead, and jaw muscles. It is theorized that the pain of tension headaches comes from physical stress on the muscles surrounding the head. Stressors may include prolonged sitting at a desk or computer, concentrating for long periods of time, or manual labor. Emotional stress can also be the underlying cause of tension headaches.

Cluster headaches

These head pains get their name because of the way they occur. They come on daily for periods of a week or more followed by long time periods (months or even years) with no head pains. They often hit at night time, waking the sufferer up from sleep. The cause of these head pains is unknown but probably connected to a sudden release of the chemicals, histamine and serotonin, in the brain. The hypothalamus may be the source of the problem. It is responsible for the body’s biological clock and located at the base of the brain.

Secondary head pains

One of the main causes of secondary headaches is injuries to the head and neck. When injuries occur, bleeding may occur between the meninges, the layers of tissue around the brain, or the brain itself. Problems in the blood vessels of the head and neck are also culprits.

Finding Natural Relief for Any Head Pain Type

Most head pain types respond favorably to upper cervical chiropractic care. A misalignment in the upper bones of the neck are often to blame for head pains because they wreak havoc with the brainstem. If the C1 and C2 vertebrae are misaligned, they put the brainstem under stress. These bones were originally designed to protect the brainstem. But injury or trauma can cause them to move out of place and have the opposite effect. If the brainstem, the communication highway between the brain and body, is sending improper signals to the brain, head pains can follow. A misalignment here can also act as a hindrance to blood and cerebrospinal fluid from leaving or entering the brain -- another reason a head pain may occur.

The upper cervical chiropractic method is gentle and specifically tailored to each patient. Rather than popping the neck or cracking the spine to get results, we encourage the bones to move back into place naturally. Once the misalignment is corrected, patients often see an improvement in or end to their headaches.

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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.