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Common Headaches

Understanding the Most Common Types of Headaches

Headaches are a prevalent health issue that can significantly impact daily life. Understanding the different types can aid in effective management and treatment. Here, we explore the most common types of headaches and three distinguishing features of each.

1. Tension Headaches

Features: Dull, Aching Pain: Tension headaches typically present as a constant ache rather than a throbbing pain. The discomfort often feels like a tight band around the head.

Location: The pain is usually bilateral, affecting both sides of the head, and can extend to the neck and shoulders.

Triggers: Stress, anxiety, and poor posture are common triggers. These headaches can be episodic or chronic, depending on the frequency of occurrences.

2. Migraines

Features: Intense, Throbbing Pain: Migraines often cause severe, pulsating pain, usually on one side of the head. The pain can be debilitating and interfere with daily activities.

Associated Symptoms: Migraines frequently come with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people may also experience visual disturbances known as auras.

Duration: Migraine attacks can last from a few hours to several days, with varying frequency and intensity.

3. Cluster Headaches

Features: Severe, Piercing Pain: Cluster headaches are characterized by excruciating pain, often described as a burning or stabbing sensation. The pain is typically located around one eye or on one side of the head.

Duration and Frequency: These headaches occur in clusters, meaning multiple attacks over a period of weeks or months, followed by remission periods. Each headache episode can last from 15 minutes to three hours.

Autonomic Symptoms: Cluster headaches often come with autonomic symptoms like redness and tearing of the eye, nasal congestion, or a runny nose on the affected side.

4. Sinus Headaches

Features: Facial Pain: Sinus headaches are associated with deep, constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose. The pain intensifies with sudden head movements or straining.

Associated Symptoms: These headaches are often accompanied by sinus symptoms like nasal discharge, congestion, and a feeling of fullness in the ears.

Triggers: Sinus headaches are typically triggered by sinus infections or allergies, causing inflammation and pressure in the sinus cavities.


Recognising the specific type of headache is crucial for appropriate treatment and management. Whether it’s the common tension headache or the more severe cluster headache, understanding the symptoms and triggers can lead to better relief strategies and improved quality of life.