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Headaches: Types, Causes, & Treatments

Headaches: Types, Causes, & Treatments

Headaches are far more complicated than most people think. Depending on the location, type, and intensity of the pain, it can indicate a variety of underlying issues. In order to find the right kind of treatment, it is important to understand where the pain originates and what is causing it. There are over 150 types of headaches, but among those, there are several that are most common.

Sinus Headache

The sinuses are air-filled spaces inside the forehead, cheekbones, and nose. They can become inflamed due to allergies or infection, which leads to swelling, increased mucus production, and blocked drainage. This causes a buildup of pressure in the sinuses causing pain that feels like a headache.


  • Deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose
  • Pain gets stronger when moving the head
  • Sinus infection, sinusitis, and/or allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, a feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, or swelling in the face


Tension Headache

Tension headaches are usually referred to as stress headaches, and they can be episodic or chronic. They are caused by stress, lack of rest, sleep deprivation, poor posture, or depression. They are characterized by a dull pain, tightness, or pressure around the forehead, back of the head, or neck.


  • Fatigue
  • Headache that starts later in the day
  • Mild to moderate pain/pressure in the front, top, or sides of the head
  • Tends to start at the back of the head and move forward
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Muscle aches


  • Improve your posture
  • Hydrate plentifully
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Make sure to get enough sleep

Migraine Headache

Migraines are intense headaches that can last anywhere from 4 hours to several days. The exact cause of these headaches is unknown, but they seem to be related to changes in the brain and certain genes that run in families. Certain triggers can exacerbate the onset of a migraine, including fatigue, bright lights, and weather changes. Often times, your doctor will prescribe pain relievers to manage your migraines.


  • Onset or Aura:
    • Brief periods of depression
    • Constipation
    • Stiff neck
    • Moodiness
    • Decreased appetite
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of vision
    • Visual symptoms; wavy lines, flashing lights
    • Pins and needles feeling in limbs
    • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
    • Trouble talking and controlling movements
  • Attack:
    • Severe throbbing or pulsing pain
    • Affects one side of the head or one eye
    • Extra sensitive to light, smells, sounds, touch
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness or fainting
    • Blurry and/or double vision

Cluster Headache

A cluster refers to a series of short, painful headaches that occur every day for weeks or months at a time. They are seasonal in nature and tend to occur around the same time every year. They are caused by changes in facial nerve and can be more severe than migraines. Cluster headaches tend to be relatively quick, very painful, predictable, and frequent. These headaches can be managed by knowing and avoiding your triggers, along with pain killers if need be.


  • Pain or burning feeling around the eyes and jaw
  • Swollen or drooping eye
  • Sweating
  • Red face due to blood rush
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness or watering
  • Smaller pupil
  • Runny nose or congestion

Ice Pick Headache

Ice pick headaches are also called stabbing headaches because they are usually described as the feeling of being stabbed in the head. They feel like quick jabs or jolts of severe pain around one of the eyes or at the temple. People who are prone to migraines or cluster headaches are more likely to experience ice pick headaches. This type of headache tends to come and go rather quickly and may occur throughout the day. These headaches can be managed by knowing and avoiding your triggers, along with pain killers if need be.

Spinal Headache

This type of headache occurs after a spinal tap, lumbar puncture, or epidural block (usually performed during labor and delivery). When the fluid-filled space surrounding the spinal cord is punctured, some spinal fluid leaks out. If too much fluid leaks out, this changes the pressure around the brain and spinal cord, causing a spinal headache.


  • Dull, throbbing pain (mild to incapacitating)
  • Worsens when sitting up or standing
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Nausea
  • Stiff neck


  • Hydrating more
  • Drink caffeine
  • Rest and relax (limited moving)
  • Medication
  • Blood patch to seal the leak

While there are many different types of headaches, these are among the most common. Speak with your doctor to determine the right kind of treatment and prevention plan for you. Often times, simple lifestyle changes can do the trick. If you are experiencing unbearable headaches and would like a professional opinion, make an appointment with Dr. Lisa Liberatore. Schedule it online or call (212) 288-2222.

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