It is important to understand that there are different types of headaches. Each type of headache has different symptoms and treatments. This table describes different types of headaches, the symptoms, typical causes, treatment and prevention.

Headache Types and Treatments

 

Symptoms

Things That Can Make Headaches Worse

Treatment

(These examples can help give you ideas to discuss with your provider. They do NOT substitute for your health care provider’s advice.)

Prevention

(These examples can help give you ideas to discuss with your provider.
They do NOT substitute for your health care
provider’s advice. )

Allergy
Headaches

  • Generalized (all over) headache
  • Nasal congestion (stuffy nose)
  • Watery eyes
  • Seasonal allergens, such as pollen and molds
  • Allergies to food do not usually cause headaches
  • Antihistamine medicine
  • Topical nasal cortisone spray
  • Allergy medicine

Analgesic
Rebound/
Medication Overuse
Headache (MOH)

  • Might feel like a dull, tension-type headache or might be a more severe migraine-like headache
  • Use of prescription or over-the-counter medicines on a daily or near daily basis
  • Stop taking medicine
  • Headache might initially get worse but will begin to get better after 3-5 days
  • Preventive medicine needed (These are medicines you take to prevent a headache from starting.)
  • Medicines such as ergots, triptans, opioids and barbi- turates should not be used more than 10 days a month
  • Simple pain relievers should not be used more than 15 days a month

Chronic
Daily
Headaches (CDH)

  • Refers to a broad range of headache disorders that happen more than 15 days a month
  • Two categories of CDHs are determined by how long you have the headache
    • less than 4    hours
    • more than    4 hours
  • Might start as a transformed migraine; this is a migraine that has been going on so long that it is now a CDH 
  • Might start as a chronic tension-type headache
  • Can be associated with overuse of a medicine
  • Different treatment options will be recommended based on the type of CDH
  • Use of analgesics will be limited
  • Based on:
    • diagnosis of     headache
    • how long a     headache lasts
    • number of
    • headaches each     month

Cluster
Headaches

  • Excruciating pain around the eyes
  • Tearing of eye, nose congestion (stuffy nose), flushing of face
  • Pain frequently develops during sleep and might last several hours
  • Occur every day for weeks or a month, and then disappear for up to a year
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Excessive smoking
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines
  • Use same medicines used to treat the headaches

Migraine With and Without
Aura

  • Migraine with aura, except warning symptoms develop such as visual disturbances or numbness in arm or leg
  • Warning symptoms likely to go away within a half hour, followed by severe, one-sided throbbing pain, often accom- panied by nausea, vomiting, cold hands, and sensitivity to sound and light
  • Certain foods
  • Please refer to patient education handout called Managing Migraine Headaches
  • Birth control pill or menopausal hormones
  • Excessive hunger
  • Changes in altitude, weather, light
  • Excessive smoking
  • Emotional stress
  • Hereditary component
  • Ice packs
  • Prescription migraine medicines
  • Biofeedback
  • Please refer to patient education handout called Managing Migraine Headaches
  • Prescription medicines that can prevent the headache

Post-Traumatic Headaches

  • Localized or generalized pain that is similar to migraine or tension-type headache symptoms
  • Usually occur on daily basis and resist treatment
  • Pain can occur after relatively minor injuries
  • Cause of pain is often difficult to diagnose.
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines
  • Biofeedback
  • Taking precautions to avoid trauma

Sinus
Headaches

  • Gnawing pain over nose and sinus that often increases in severity throughout day
  • Caused by acute infection, usually with fever, that blocks sinus ducts and prevents normal drainage
  • Migraine, cluster headaches often misdiagnosed as sinus in origin (sinus headaches are rare)
  • Infection
  • Nasal polyps
  • Anatomical deformities, such as a deviated septum, that block the sinus ducts
  • Treat with antibiotics, decongestants or surgical drainage, if necessary
  • None

Tension-Type
Headaches

  • Dull, nonthrobbing pain
  • Frequently on both sides of head
  • Associated with tightness of scalp or neck
  • Severity remains constant
  • Emotional stress
  • Depression that has not been identified and/or treated
  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter pain reliever
  • Caffeine
  • Ice packs
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antidepressants, if appropriate
  • Biofeedback
  • Psychotherapy
  • Avoiding stress
  • Using biofeedback, relaxation techniques or antidepressant medicines

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team.