Understanding Types of Headaches

Written by Rebekah Scott (last updated December 14, 2009)

Headaches are, well, a headache. They seem to come on at the most inconvenient times, and can make it impossible to function well at work or at home. People who suffer from headaches may notice that the pain they feel is not always the same. Here is a good breakdown of the different types of headaches that you may experience.

It's easy to imagine what a tension headache feels based on its name. This kind of headache most commonly causes pain in the temples of the forehead and pronounced feelings of pressure around the head. When a tension headache hits, it feels as you're wearing a hat that is three sizes too small. Just think of the hat band applying steady and strong pressure in a circle around the head. Tension headaches also cause the muscles in the back of the head and in the neck and shoulders to contract and tense, making it hard to physically relax that area and become comfortable.

Migraines are one of the most debilitating types of headaches. Sadly, scientific research still has not been able to determine exactly what causes migraines, nor has research found a reliable cure for them. Unlike tension headaches, migraine pain doesn't necessarily spread out evenly around the head, nor is the pain mirrored on the opposite side of the head. This means that someone could feel migraine pain in their right temple, but not in their left.

Migraines come on slowly. Most sufferers can identify the beginning symptoms of a migraine before the full effect hits. The biggest symptom is a feeling that the body's equilibrium has been knocked off center. Nausea, blurred vision, and vomiting are all common manifestations of migraines that gain in intensity as the headache develops. A heightened sensitivity to light and noise are also common, and can make it impossible for someone to engage in their regular day to day activities.

A small population of migraine sufferers also experience a sensation referred to as an aura, which can be a visual light phenomena appearing in the outer edges of the vision field, or in tingling sensations in the body, especially in the extremities, and an upset stomach. Most migraine sufferers do not experience the aura sensation, however, but those that do have a very difficult time handling it.

Cluster headaches are rare, but are the most painful type of headache. They occur in patterns, or clusters, over the course of days or week, and come on suddenly and without the warning of any preceding symptoms. The onset of a cluster headache is characterized by short bursts of pain which can last for a few minutes or a few hours. The pain caused by a cluster headache is a deep and jabbing sensation deep within the eye socket on one side of the face. Eye twitches on the affected side, drooping eyelids, and nasal drip are all common side affects of cluster headaches.

Headaches are neither simple nor easy to treat. However, as science advances and new understandings are gained, and as headache sufferers understand the mechanics of the specific type of headache that they are dealing with, steps can be taken to ease the difficulty of experiencing and recovering from a headache.

Author Bio

Rebekah Scott


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