Headache Types

There are many different kinds of pain in the head. Headaches can be dull and persistent, or short and sharp. They can be directly caused by things you do or appear mysteriously without reason. Here is a quick guide to the different types of headache.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches typically affect both sides of your head at the same time. The pain might start at the back of your head and spread forward. It can be dull or a squeezing sensation (like a tight rope around your head).

Muscle tension can start in your shoulders, neck or jaw, before spreading to your cranium. Multiple areas, including neck, jaw, shoulders and head, may feel tight and sore. The pain is normally spread rather than sharp.

Tension headaches can occur due to stress or fatigue. They can also arise from posture problems, such as holding your head on an angle for too long or sleeping in a strange position. It is a highly treatable form of headache.

Sinus headaches

Sinus headaches are associated with pain and tenderness in the front parts of your head and face. It results from inflammation of the sinus passages. These are located behind the cheeks, nose and eyes. The pain is often worse if you bend forward and when you arise in the morning. Accompanying sinus headaches are runny noses and sore throats.


Migraine headaches are acutely painful and interfere with daily life. Co-symptoms may include visual disturbances and nausea. Migraines often start on one side of your head but may spread to both side. An aura can precede a painful throbbing headache. An aura is a visual phenomenon such as blurry vision, flashing lights, or missing chunks of vision. When suffering a migraine, you may feel sensitive to light and/or movement and experience nausea.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are an unusual kind of headache where there are multiple bouts of shooting pain. The pain is typically sharp and severe. Cluster headaches may happen several times a day for months (hence the name) and then disappear for an extended period. Unfortunately, you can expect them to return again.

Other kinds

Older people (over 50) who are having headaches for the first time should be aware of the condition temporal arteritis. In this case, your vision becomes impaired and you experience pain when chewing. It can lead to blindness – so please seek medical attention straight away.

Other, rarer causes of headaches include strokes, brain aneurysms, and brain infections.