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Types of Headache: Symptoms, Causes, and How to Relieve

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Everyday life is full of situations that can cause a headache: a bad night’s sleep, an episode of stress and even constant contact with screens. Depending on the cause, some types may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness and malaise.

While discomfort is common, it is extremely important that the problem is investigated — especially if the pain is frequent. According to Caio Grava Simioni, a neurologist at Fleury Medicina e Saúde, a headache that progresses in intensity over the days should be investigated, as it may be associated with more serious medical conditions.

According to the International Classification of Headaches, there are more than 200 types of headache and, to define the cause of each one, they are classified into two types:



  • Primary headache: it is one that is not related to any disease or condition, that is, the headache is a disease in itself. As the most common type of headache, it encompasses migraine, cluster headache, and tension headache;
  • secondary headache: it is a symptom of a clinical condition that justifies it, such as, for example, bacterial and viral infections, aneurysms and brain tumors and cranial lesions.

Learn more: 8 unusual causes for headache

In this context, it is important to be aware of the frequency and intensity of the headache to know when to seek medical help, preferably from a neurologist. With that in mind, MinhaVida has listed the five main types of headache and how each one manifests itself. Check out!

1. Tension headache

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Tension headache, known as tension headache, is the most common type of primary headache and causes mild to moderate pain that affects both sides of the back of the neck or forehead. It is described as the feeling of a tight band around the head.

In most cases, it is caused by involuntary and chronic contraction of the muscles at the back of the neck which, in turn, can occur due to factors such as stress, poor posture, anxiety, and lack of sleep.



It is important to emphasize that daily exposure to stressful situations can lead to a picture of primary chronic headache, that manifests itself for more than fifteen days in a month, for more than three months. The problem directly interferes with the performance of daily activities and the patient’s quality of life.

2. Migraine

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Of genetic origin, migraine is a type of disabling headache characterized by a throbbing and intense pain on one or both sides of the head, which can be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.

Although its exact causes are unknown, researchers point out that migraine is related to changes in the brain, which reacts to some trigger and sends impulses to the blood vessels. Stress, intermittent fasting and excessive physical exertion are some of the main triggers for the disease.

3. Cluster headache

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Cluster headache is a relatively rare disease that recurs over a long period of time. Typically, attacks occur over a period of one to three months, followed by an indeterminate period of pain-free time.

With greater intensity than migraine, the problem manifests itself as intense pain on one side of the head, located at the temple or around the eye, which lasts for a short time. The pain is accompanied by nasal congestion or runny nose and, in some cases, tearing, flushed face and drooping eyelid.

According to the MSD Handbook, most people with cluster headaches need to take medications to prevent attacks from recurring, such as triptans or dihydroergonome given by injection.

4. Headache associated with sinusitis

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Constant headache is one of the main symptoms in cases of chronic or acute sinusitis, in which inflammation of the sinuses occurs. It is described as pressure or pain in the face, behind the forehead, in the cheeks, around the eyes and ears, and in the upper jaw.

In addition to the pain caused by sinusitis (which classifies it as a secondary headache), other symptoms can manifest, such as fever, cough, nasal congestion and discharge.

5. Headache associated with COVID-19

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During the acute phase of the coronavirus infection, which lasts from one to four weeks, headache is one of the most common symptoms and can appear in up to four weeks. 50% of cases.

At this stage, the pain may be mild at first and increase in intensity as the days go by, affect both sides of the head and be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, cough, tiredness and loss of taste and smell.

Furthermore, data from Fiocruz indicate that some people develop pain that is not restricted to the acute period of infection and can last for weeks. According to Caio, some patients who tested positive for COVID-19 may experience worsening of a previous headache (such as migraine) or may develop a new headache.

How to relieve headache?

Headache treatment depends on the cause of the problem. In the case of tension pain, it is possible to resort to home remedies that promote relief, such as massages, compresses and teas. If that doesn’t work, you may need pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

Learn more: 6 ways to relieve headache without medication

As for the migraine, seizures can be controlled by administering common analgesics. If not, the specialist doctor can prescribe the use of triptans, drugs widely used in the treatment of the disease and which have a low incidence of side effects.

in the case of secondary headaches, such as a sinus headache or COVID-19, treatment is aimed at controlling the disease or condition that is causing the pain. In most cases, the pain will go away with the resolution of the problem.

Finally, the cluster headache covers several treatment methods, although the disease has no cure, which seek to attenuate the intensity and reduce its duration. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and strong analgesics are the most used, in addition to the oxygen mask in times of crisis.

Learn more: Headache remedy: check out 8 most suitable options



Content for educational purposes only. Consult a Doctor.

The translator user relied on the following source:

Minha Vida Website – REF99827

Disclaimer – (English version>) This content has been prepared based on information from research, additional publications, or the translation/verification work of a volunteer editor of this web council. This is a non-profit service. It is strongly recommended that all details and information published be carefully verified. We never allow medication recommendations, medication package inserts or any medication guidance. We never allow partisan politics as information.

Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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