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[Pain Management NYC] How to Tell What Type of Headache You're Having

Updated: Jun 26


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I'm sure you've had a headache before; in fact, most of us get headaches at least once per month. However, if you suffer from chronic headaches, then you know that they can be extremely painful.


Did you know there are thousands of different types of headaches? Each is unique, so a solution that works for one person may not work for another. It's important to understand the different types of headaches and symptoms so you can get the right treatment. The good news is that there are many different treatments available at a pain management NYC clinic to eliminate or reduce the chronicity of headaches.


In this blog, I'll be going over various types of headaches. I'll also provide information on how to identify your headache type, possible causes and ways to stop the pain, and treatment options that are available for each type of headache.


Things to Consider When Identifying Headaches

There are many types of headaches, including tension headaches, sinus headaches, and migraine headaches. Here are some ways to determine what type of headache you're experiencing:


Consider what triggers the pain

Some people get migraines with certain food triggers, like coffee or chocolate, while others experience them because of stress or lack of sleep. Tension headaches often come on gradually and then worsen as time passes rather than reaching their peak right away, as migraines do.


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Check for sensitivity to light and sound

If your headache is accompanied by sensitivity to light or sound, then it's probably a migraine. Migraines are typically characterized by throbbing pain in one side of the head, usually lasting for hours at a time. Light or noise may trigger an attack in sensitive people; those who don't experience this symptom may still find relief from avoiding bright lights and loud sounds.


Look at the location of the pain

If your head pain radiates from one side to another or moves around your head, it could be a migraine. If your head pain stays in one area or gets worse when you move your head and neck, it could be a tension headache.


Headache pain can be felt anywhere from your forehead and temples down your neck and into your shoulders. Some people experience dull aches or pressure in their temples, while others experience sharp pains on one side of their head that may radiate to other parts of their body. You might also feel pain behind your eyes or see flashing lights when you have a migraine attack.


Pay attention to any accompanying symptoms

For example, if your head hurts when you bend over but gets better when you stand up again, that's probably a tension headache caused by muscle spasms in your neck and shoulders. On the other hand, if your vision is blurry or you have trouble hearing, those could be signs of something more serious like an aneurysm (a weak spot on an artery wall that causes blood to leak into surrounding tissue).


Know how the headache started

The timing of your pain can also help determine what type of headache you're having. Migraines tend to occur on the same day each month and often start after certain triggers like changes in weather or hunger pangs. Cluster headaches tend to occur in cycles every few days for several weeks at a time before going away for several months at a time. Tension headaches typically occur on both sides of the head and often arise from stress or muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.


Types of Headaches

Headaches come in many forms, and there are many different causes for them. The good news is that most headaches are not life-threatening and will go away on their own after a few days or weeks. But if your symptoms become worse or don't get better, see a health professional. It's important to know what type of headache you're experiencing to manage the problem properly. There are many types of headaches, and each can be treated differently.


Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are usually not as severe as migraines or cluster headaches but can be long-lasting and painful. Tension headaches are a type of headache that's caused by muscle tightness or spasms in the neck and shoulder muscles. It can also result from stress and anxiety.


The pain usually spreads across the forehead but sometimes affects the entire head. It's usually described as constant pressure or tightness and is often accompanied by:

• A stiff neck

• A feeling of nausea or vomiting

• Feeling sick to your stomach

• Difficulty concentrating


Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. The pain is usually mild and may be felt at the back of the head, in the neck and shoulders, or across both sides of the head. People who have tension headaches often say they feel like a tight band or vice squeezing their head.


Tension headaches may be caused by stress, muscle contraction or spasms in your neck and shoulder muscles, eye problems, hormone changes, lack of sleep, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, or other factors.


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Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are one of the most common types of headaches. They range from throbbing to severe pain and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Migraines usually occur on one side of the head but can be bilateral (both sides). They usually affect only one side of the head at a time, but sometimes both sides are affected at once.


Migraines are very different from other types of headaches because they tend to occur on one side of the head. The pain is throbbing or pulsing, often worse when you move your eyes. You may also have nausea and vomiting with migraines. If you have migraines more than two times per month, talk to a pain specialist about treatment options that can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.


The most common symptoms during an attack are moderate to severe pain, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to bright lights and sounds, and extreme sensitivity to touch or movement. Dizziness may also occur during an attack. In addition, some people experience an aura before a migraine attack that may include visual disturbances such as flashing lights or blind spots in one eye; numbness or tingling sensations in their face, arms, or legs; and difficulty speaking clearly.


Migraine headaches can cause intense, throbbing pain that lasts for up to 72 hours. They tend to occur on one side of the head, although they can affect both sides at once. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound (called photophobia and phonophobia). Migraines may also be associated with sensitivity to smells (called osmophobia). Less commonly, people experience an aura — seeing flashing lights or having difficulty speaking — before their migraine starts. Some people also experience weakness or numbness in one side of their body before their migraine starts.


Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are a severe, short-term type of headache. They tend to occur in the same place in your head and around the same time every day. The headaches are often described as feeling like a severe electric shock or stab.


The pain can be so severe that some people faint during an attack. The headache usually lasts between 15 minutes and 3 hours. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit when you have a cluster headache. You might also have watering eyes and a runny nose if you cry because of the pain.


In most cases, clusters happen more than once daily for several weeks or months at a time and then disappear for months or years before returning again — for example, once every year for six months out of every twelve months.


Mixed Headaches

This type of headache occurs when there are two or more types of pain happening at once. For example, you could have both a migraine and a tension headache happening at the same time.


It's possible to have both migraines and tension headaches at the same time, but it's not common. A mixed headache indicates that there may be multiple causes for your pain, so it's important to get an accurate diagnosis from a pain specialist or another healthcare professional, so you know what's causing your pain and can treat it accordingly.


Final Thoughts

When it comes to figuring out what's causing your headaches, you're going to have to think about the details of your pain and the potential causes of a headache. The more information you can provide your doctor, the sooner you can find out what's causing your headaches and treat them appropriately. Hopefully, this article has helped give you insight into your headaches and how to get the right treatment. If you experience headaches regularly, see a pain management NYC specialist for an accurate diagnosis. They can then provide treatment options that could help you feel better faster.

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