Types of Headaches: What Causes Them and How to Get Relief

No one welcomes a headache with open arms. In fact, no one welcomes headaches at all. They’re painful and affect the way we think, act, and feel. Because headaches vary, treatment might not be as simple as popping an over-the-counter med.

Here’s what you need to know about seven common headaches.

1. Migraine

A man feeling a terrible headache

Migraines can ruin your day. | iStock.com

Migraines are extremely painful, throbbing headaches that usually affect one side of the head. The National Center for Biotechnology and Information says they occur very suddenly and also lead to upset stomach, nausea, and blurred vision. Even worse, no one is sure of what exactly causes them to occur.

If you find yourself suffering from a migraine, try lying down in a dark room with a wet towel on your head to relax and ease tension. If this doesn’t work, you may want to try a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

2. Cluster headache

A woman with a headache

Cluster headaches can occur suddenly and be incredibly painful. | iStock.com

Also known as Horton’s syndrome, cluster headaches have the ability to match the pain of a migraine. The difference is they’re usually shorter and seasonal, so they’re commonly mistaken for stress or allergy symptoms. WebMD says the bursts of pain are often felt around the eyes, forehead, temples, and nose. This usually happens daily for a few weeks or months. Although the cause is not known, there are specific medications your doctor may prescribe to help ease the pain.

3. Hormonal headache

headache during work at the office

Your period can bring on headaches. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

According to Everyday Health, estrogen plays a role for headaches in women. The article mentions doctors believe it can affect brain chemicals that are associated with headaches. The lower the estrogen levels, the more severe the pain. This is why many women may experience this symptom around the time of their menstrual cycle.

Remedies to ease the pain include yoga, getting enough sleep, and prescription or over-the-counter medication. Once the fluctuation stops and hormone levels are stabilized, the headaches should be less severe.

4. Stress headache

Man stressed at work

Stress can cause serious head pain. | iStock.com

This is also known as a tension headache. Healthline describes them as moderate or mild compared to migraines. Pain can be felt behind the eyes, around the forehead, and even in the neck. This is because they’re the result of muscle contractions in these areas. They’re caused by emotional stress, sinus infections, fatigue, cold or flu, and even digital eyestrain.

Pain medications like ibuprofen or aspirin may bring relief. Other remedies include stress management and relaxation techniques.

5. Caffeine headache

A sad looking Coffee Cup

Your morning brew could be the cause (and the cure) of your headaches. | iStock.com/a_crotty

Frustratingly, caffeine has been linked to both curing and causing headaches. Cleveland Clinic mentions some common headache medications contain caffeine. It’s an ingredient that makes the medication work faster and more effectively. This is beneficial because it means you can take a smaller dose. However, if patients overuse or misuse them, it can cause a rebound headache. Combining these medications with caffeinated food or beverages can also increase chances of developing a headache, so you may want to limit coffee when taking pain relievers.

6. Chronic daily headache

Man thinking as he sits

Some experience headaches daily. | iStock.com

People with chronic daily headaches experience them at least 15 days per month. According to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, this condition is not characterized by just one type of headache. Instead, it’s a variety of headaches that happen almost daily.

The best thing to do is consult your physician who can recommend medication for your specific condition. Mayo Clinic says alternative forms of pain relief can include acupuncture, massage, and certain supplements.

7. Sinus headache

man in bed with a cold

You may have sinus headaches when you get a cold. | iStock.com

This is harder to distinguish because it’s similar to migraines and tension headaches. The University of Maryland Medical Center says the pain is usually felt at the front of the head and face. It occurs when sinuses are inflamed around the cheeks, nose, and eyes. Usually, sinus headaches are paired with congestion, a runny nose, or a cold.

The best way to relieve the pain is to treat whatever is causing inflammation, whether it be a cold or allergy. It may also be helpful to keep a humidifier in your room. As with other headaches, yoga, meditation, and other stress-relieving techniques can help.