5 Different Types Of Headaches + What To Do About Each

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Headaches are so common and widespread that sometimes we simply pop a pain reliever and go on with our day. But it's important to remember that when it comes to the body, there's always a reason we're not feeling our best. Headaches are no exception to this rule! So how do we become more knowledgeable and therefore empowered to manage any headache that comes along? How do we best treat them or, better yet, prevent them in the first place?

Well, Dr. Isha Gupta is a board-certified neurologist at IGEA Brain & Spine, and she deals with headaches every single day. Here's what she thinks everyone should know about headaches:

There's more than one type of headache.

In fact, according to Dr. Gupta, there are five! There's a lot to learn, so here's a little bit of information about each:

1. Tension headache.

These headaches commonly present as painful pressure or a tightening sensation around the head, sometimes the entire head! Dr. Gupta's best tip? Try to reduce sources of stress and tension in your life. (Which, we know, is easier said than done.)

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2. Migraine headache.

Migraines commonly present as a pulsing or throbbing pain in one or both sides of the head, lights in your vision, great sensitivity to noises and lights, and possible vomiting and nausea. Oftentimes an NSAID can help treat migraines, but if you have more than one per week, Dr. Gupta recommends seeing a doctor who may be able to prescribe you something stronger.

3. Sinus headaches.

These headaches are characterized by sinus pain and pressure—normally in the front of the head. Dr. Gupta often tells her patients to treat headaches with a neti pot or an over-the-counter pain reliever. It's also important to make sure a doctor looks at your sinuses to make sure your headache really is a sinus headache.

4. Cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches are often described as a stabbing pain in one side of the head and are also often accompanied by one eye tearing up and sweat on the face. These usually last about 30 minutes but often occur frequently. These are the most difficult types of headaches to predict and treat.

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5. Hormone headache.

Some women experience headaches or migraines at certain times of the month, especially before, after, or during menstruation. Luckily, this means they are often more predictable than other types of headaches, and I tell my female patients to take preventive measures during those few days of the month and try to pinpoint any triggers.

6. Rebound headache.

These headaches occur when a certain medication is used too frequently. In other words, if you take Tylenol every day to treat your headaches, you might start developing them on a daily basis. Dr. Gupta normally tells her patients to stop taking their acute medication for a while to give the body a rest.

If you suffer from headaches, do this:

When it comes to headaches, knowledge is power. So it's great news when you can identify exactly what type of headaches you're suffering from. Luckily, there are certain steps you can take when you're suffering from headaches frequently or even just occasionally—especially if it's been hard to identify the cause. Here are 10 that Dr. Gupta recommends:

  1. Start a headache diary, where you keep track of symptoms.
  2. Take a good hard look at your sleep (are you getting too much or too little?).
  3. Watch your intake of chocolate, cheese, deli meats, red wine, and any other type of alcohol.
  4. Keep track of neck pain symptoms, as this is often linked to headaches.
  5. Evaluate your stress levels.
  6. Consider that your caffeine intake might have something to do with your headaches.
  7. Try taking a B vitamin complex; these are great for people who are wary of prescription medications.
  8. Magnesium is great migraine prevention.
  9. Consider a massage—especially temporal massage.
  10. Uncover your triggers. For example, preventing sinus headaches is more about controlling pollen and the allergies that are causing the flare.

Are your headaches a symptom of something greater? Here's how one functional medicine doctor solved her own medical mystery.

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