Most people with tension-type headache find relief with over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol and many others), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Certain people may require prescription-strength pain relievers for particularly severe episodes.
- Frequent use of medications to treat symptoms of headache may actually cause episodic tension-type headache to become chronic in nature.
A headache is pain in the head or upper neck. They may be primary (not associated with a medical condition) or secondary (caused by an injury or medical condition). Primary headaches include tension, migraine and cluster headaches. Most headaches are not indicative of a serious medical problem.
There are many different types of common headaches.And, although some of the symptoms associated with each type may overlap, recognizing the distinct features of the headaches can help the patient and doctor determine the best treatment strategy.
1. Migraine Headache
Migraine headaches are commonly one-sided (unilateral). The pain is described as throbbing or pulsing, and worsens with routine physical activity, such as climbing a flight of stairs. The pain is typically moderate to severe. There is often associated nausea and/or vomiting, and there can be sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. Sometimes, the headache will awaken the individual from sleep. A migraine headache may last from several hours to 3 days.
2. Sinus Headache
The pain associated with sinus headaches is generally located around or behind the eyes, across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, along the forehead, or along the top teeth. The pain is often described as a pressure-like sensation and is constant. Leaning forward or upside down, sudden activity, or exercise can make the pain worse. Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, including discolored nasal mucus, nasal congestion, plugged ears, swelling of the face, and a fever, may accompany sinus headache.
3. Tension Headache
Tension headaches are a pressure or tight sensation, often described as “vice-like” in quality. The pain is typically mild to moderate, but can become severe. There is no associated throbbing or pulsing to the pain of a tension headache. Furthermore, there is no exacerbation or increase in the pain with exercise. Nausea and vomiting are not associated with tension headaches. However, some patients do occasionally describe either light sensitivity or noise sensitivity.
4. Cluster Headache
Cluster headache is another very distinct type of head pain. The pain is always one-sided during the cluster attack. However, the side that is affected can vary from headache to headache. The pain is typically a stabbing or piercing pain, which is extremely severe. Despite the severity, the headache usually lasts only 10 minutes to 3 hours and then resolves. However, the headache can recur several times over the course of a day or week. Laying down often worsens the pain. Symptoms frequently seen with cluster headache include watering of the eye on the side of the headache and nasal congestion on the side of the headache. The eyelid on the affected side may appear droopy. Cluster headaches are frequently triggered by alcohol consumption.
5. Mixed or Mixed Tension Migraine
This headache type has features of both migraine headache and tension headache. Sufferers describe the pain as dull and constant or throbbing and the severity may be mild, moderate, or severe. Other symptoms of migraine, including light and sound sensitivity or nausea and vomiting, may be present. There may be neck pain or scalp muscle tension.