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What are they?

Headaches, a commonly experienced and long-lasting pain condition within the general population, can manifest in various regions of the head. They can be localized or affect both sides of the head, and may also spread from one point to another. Typically, individuals experience headaches as sharp or throbbing sensations. The duration of headaches can range from less than an hour to several weeks, and they can emerge suddenly or gradually.

There are numerous potential causes of headaches. It is crucial to undergo a careful assessment and diagnosis by a doctor in order to rule out serious and treatable conditions, as some headaches may be indicative of life-threatening situations requiring immediate medical attention. However, the majority of headaches are not linked to severe illnesses.

Different types of headaches have their own specific symptoms, which may necessitate different treatments. Once your doctor identifies the appropriate treatment, it is likely to provide relief and potentially even prevent future occurrences.

Primary Headaches

Some factors that could trigger headaches are:

  • Tension headaches: These are the most common type of headaches and are often caused by muscle tension and stress.
  • Migraine headaches: Migraines are recurrent headaches characterized by intense throbbing pain, often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances.
  • Cluster headaches: Cluster headaches are severe, recurring headaches that occur in clusters or patterns. They typically cause intense pain around one eye and can be accompanied by nasal congestion and watery eyes.
  • Cough headaches: Cough headaches are a type of headache that is triggered or brought on by coughing or other forms of straining, such as sneezing, laughing, or bending over. These headaches are usually brief but can be intense and may cause sharp or stabbing pain in the head.
  • Exercise headaches: An exercise headache, also known as exertional headache or exercise-induced headache, is a type of headache that occurs during or after physical exertion or intense exercise. It is characterized by a throbbing pain that typically affects both sides of the head.

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying medical condition such a disease, infection, severe injury, tumors, and bleeding in the brain. The pain-sensitive nerves of the head are activated due to the underlying medical condition. Secondary headaches are extremely important to recognise and treat as they are serious and may be life- threatening due to a serious medical condition.

Listed below are among most likely causes of secondary headaches:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Blood clot
  • Brain aneurysm
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Pseudotumor cerebri
  • Stroke
  • Meningitis
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Glaucoma
  • Ear infections
  • Dehydration
  • Concussions
  • Brain tumor
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

How are they treated?

Doctors might recommend different types of treatments so that the symptoms can be relieved or stopped completely. The type of treatment you need will depend on how often you experience the headache and the type and cause of the headache. See a doctor if you experience headaches that reoccur more than usual or are more severe than usual after the appropriate use of over-the-counter drugs. Headaches can cause you distress and keep you from working, sleeping or participating in normal activities. It is best to seek medical help as soon as the headache keeps reoccurring or getting severe.

If you are experiencing a sudden, severe headache or a headache accompanied by confusion, fainting, trouble seeing, trouble walking, trouble speaking, trouble understanding speech, high fever, or neck stiffness, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms may indicate a potentially life-threatening condition and should not be ignored.

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A migraine is a primary type of headache that can often be described as severe pounding, throbbing pain. The pain is moderate to severe and can last from four hours to three days if left untreated. It can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities. The pain can be associated with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.

Several environmental factors such as dehydration, skipped meals, sleep disruption, hormone fluctuations, and exposure to chemicals could trigger a migraine headache. Migraine attacks can also be associated with a problem in the electrical impulses within the nervous system and post-traumatic stress disorders. Stressful events can lead to an increase in attack frequency. If migraine attacks happen frequently, the migraine is defined as Chronic Daily Headache.

An aura is a warning symptom that people usually experience with migraine headaches. It can occur before or with the headache and can include visual disturbances, such as a light, blind spots, tingling on one side of the face or arm, and difficulty speaking.

Some other symptoms of a migraine headache include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach or belly pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling dizzy

When To See a Doctor

Over-the-counter pain relievers can help prevent some migraines and make them less painful. Combining the right medicines with self-help remedies might help relieve symptoms.

Some Doctors prescribe Triptans if the over-the-counter medicines don’t reduce your migraine pain during an attack. Triptans are drugs that decrease inflammation and change the flow of the blood in your brain. Occipital Nerve stimulation or Neuromodulation promising results in the treatment of severe migraines.

Keeping a record of your migraine attacks and how you treated them is essential. Careful assessment and proper diagnosis from your doctor are crucial because more than one problem could be contributed to a migraine headache. Inform your doctor if the pattern of your headaches changes or if your headaches suddenly feel different. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss further treatment.

Below are some indicators of more of a serious problem. See your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you have any of the signs and symptoms:

  • Abrupt, severe headache.
  • Headache with fever, confusion, seizures, double vision, numbness or weakness in any part of the body.
  • Headache after a head injury.
  • A headache that is worse after exertion, coughing, straining or a sudden movement.
  • New headache pain after the age of 50.


The contents contained within this page are not a substitute for health professionals’ advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We advise that you seek advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner. We fully disclose that any surgical or invasive procedures come with risks.

For more details on how to relieve or treat chronic pain, you can reach out to one of our pain specialists at any of our pain care clinic locations. We establish a caring relationship and provide patients with pain relief when needed the most.

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