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About headaches

You’ve likely had a headache at least once in your life. In fact, up to three-quarters of adults worldwide experienced a headache in the past year. Though usually mild, they can become debilitating – some even herald life-threatening conditions.

While we assume all headaches are the same, there are actually more than 150 types of headaches. In this article, we’ll be discussing the most common and most serious types of headaches, how you can identify them, and what you should do.


Types of headaches


Headaches are broadly split into two categories:

  1. Primary headaches aren’t caused by another medical condition

  2. Secondary headaches are related to another medical condition, like high blood pressure, infection, or trauma.


You should also distinguish between migraines and headaches. A migraine encompasses the entirety of one side of the head (unilateral) alongside visual disturbances.


Check out our migraine article for further details.


Tension headache


The most common type of headache ranges from mild to moderate severity. Traditionally described as a dull, squeezing pain on either side of the head – often focused on the temples. Your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscle may also be tender.


Cluster headache


The most painful headache – it is characterized by severe burning and piercing pain localized to one eye or one side of the face. You’ll notice redness, swelling, flushing, and sweating on the affected side. Nasal congestion and eye tearing can also occur.


Episodes typically last 15 minutes to 3 hours. The term cluster describes how headaches come in batches – up to four times a day. The cause is unknown.


Other types of headaches


Here are a few other important headaches:

  • Medication headaches are due to a medication side effect or interactions between multiple medications

  • Sinus headaches are related to acute sinusitis. Pain is focused over the forehead, nose, cheeks, and upper teeth. Nasal discharge, a fever, and congestion are all associated symptoms.

  • New daily persistent headaches (NDPH) occur suddenly and last for over three months. They are located on both sides of the head, do not ease up, and are not responsive to medications


Thunderclap headaches occur rapidly from nowhere. It is commonly described as the worst possible headache. The underlying cause is a hemorrhagic stroke or head injury. If you notice a similar headache, seek medical attention immediately!




Headaches are often stubborn, refusing to improve with treatment. Nevertheless, most should resolve within two days. Consult a medical practitioner if you’ve experienced a headache for longer or get headaches more than 15 days in a month over three months.


When consulting a Chiropractor for the treatment of headaches they would take a comprehensive approach by assessing the upper spinal joints as well as the entire neck to make certain the headache is not coming from this area. Muscle tightness in the neck can cause referred pain to the head which can feel like a headache. They would also be able to advise on posture correction as some headaches can be due to incorrect sitting posture, especially during computer work. Many of the factors contributing to headaches can be relieved through soft tissue work and spinal adjustment which is a holistic approach to wellness suitable for treating most headaches.