What is a Headache

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

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Headache is considered a non-specific symptom, meaning the same condition can be a result of any number of causes. The difficulty lies in the fact that specific treatment depends on the etiology or the underlying cause, and it can be difficult to determine what that may be. Let’s take a look at it in detail below.

What is a Headache?

A headache is classified as any pain in the region of the head or the neck. It can either be a symptom of some other condition affecting those two regions or an independent headache generated spontaneously through non-physical forces. Luckily, there are a number of home remedies that have arisen over the years, and through alternative or traditional medicine that has been found quite effective in relieving this painful condition. Let’s first look at the various types of headaches that do have formal classifications.

Types of Headaches

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) were faced with the difficulty of classifying such a broad and diverse condition like headaches into a manageable order, and they came up with these main classifications.

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches are the most common form of headaches and are mainly seen in the form of tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches represent about 90% of headaches, and approximately 3% of the population suffers from these chronically. They are typically described as constant pressure, mainly radiating from a specific area like the neck, temples, back of the head, and eyes, and they frequently cause pain equally on both sides of the head.

a woman holding her head with a frown on her face

The main causes of primary headaches are the following:

  • Stress
  • Eye strain
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hunger
  • Unusual or uncomfortable sleeping position
  • Clenching of the teeth while sleeping since it constantly contracts the temporalis muscle and induces a headache
  • Muscle tension in the neck is also a primary cause of tension-type headaches.
  • Blood vessel constriction
  • Excessive smoking or drinking
  • Dehydration
  • Genetic causes

Migraines are a slightly different case, since they usually affect only one side of the head, and are not constant, but rather a pulsating pain, and are more severe than tension headaches. They are a chronic neurological disorder and show symptoms like light or sound sensitivity, vomiting, and nausea, as well as the intense throbbing pain that usually renders a person unable to do much besides waiting for relief.

Secondary Headaches

This classification is for headaches whose cause originates from something besides neck, head, or mental causes. This is often the more serious type of headaches because it can be indicative of a serious condition, even a life-threatening one.

Some secondary types of headaches are thunderclap headaches, in which severe pain arises in a few minutes, and often disappear just as quickly, mental confusion, waking up from normal sleep due to headache pain, visual abnormalities or loss, pain in the head from changing position or movement, neck stiffness, or a headache accompanied by a fever.

These secondary headaches can sometimes be the result of blood clots, brain tumors, aneurysms, miniature-strokes, or outside forces like toxins or carbon monoxide poisoning.

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About the Author

Vanya Sharma handles the medical expert collaboration for Organic Facts. A writer at heart, she joined the website while she was still pursuing her English Literature degree from IGNOU, Delhi, India. She is also responsible for the website’s monthly newsletter and website content and contributes to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube regularly. Currently pursuing an e-course offered by Stanford University, ‘Introduction to Food and Health’, she aims to bring unbiased and helpful information to all those seeking to make their health and lifestyle a priority.  

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