Headache Symptoms

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

Headaches not only affect people of all ages, but they can also range in severity and can be linked to other symptoms or causes. The key to effective headache management is to discover individual-specific “triggers” that set off the headache so that they can be negated or avoided when possible. However, it may take time to discover the trigger, and it may take a lot of time, trial, and error.


The specific cause of a headache is largely unknown, but is thought to be caused by chemical changes in the nerves and blood vessels of the affected area. Each person has his or her own “trigger” that can set off an episode, and are usually specific to that person.

Some common triggers for headaches include:

  • Certain medications and potential side effects
  • Irregular sleep patterns and habits
  • Skipping meals or malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Severe stress
  • Repercussions of minor head injuries from the past
  • Using the computer or watching the TV excessively
  • Vision problems and/or light sensitivity
  • Changes in hormone levels, such as during menstruation
  • Taking long trips in cars or buses
  • Listening to loud music
  • Smelling strong odors, such as perfume or chemical fumes
  • Intake of stimulants and depressants, such as alcohol or caffeine
  • Eating certain foods, such as MSG, fried foods or preservatives

Headaches can also be an indicator of other infections and medical conditions. For example, it can indicate:

  • An ear infection
  • A bad cold or the flu
  • A very bad sore throat
  • Sinus infections
  • Lyme disease
  • Tumors, growths, or cancers of the head
  • Other underlying conditions of the brain, nerves and head

Common Headache Types

Here are some common headache types:

  • Tension headaches are probably the most common type of headache. Tension headaches are random and are usually triggered by temporary, but large, amounts of stress, tension, anger or fatigue. The headache is usually a sore, pulling, tense sensation, and mostly centers on the forehead, temples and back of the neck.
  • Migraine headaches are also extremely common, and can be debilitating. Symptoms include a pounding of the head, dizziness, nausea and vision problems.
  • Cluster headaches usually happen on only one side of the head, and the episodes come in groups. They are usually very intense, and can be accompanied by a runny nose on one side, or a bloodshot eye.
  • Sinus headaches are usually due to allergic reactions or sinus blockage from excessive mucus. The headache is centralized around the sinus area, behind the eyes.
  • Rebound headaches occur due to the overuse of headache medication. This happens because the body adapts to the medication, and can be frustrating. Usually, the doctor may choose to prescribe another therapy with a different medication to treat rebound headaches. It is also advised to stop using the medication in question when a rebound headache takes place.
  • Cough headaches are quite uncommon, and are generally triggered by coughing, sneezing, crying or any type of strained movement. There are two types of cough headaches, primary and secondary. The former is quite harmless and can be easily alleviated, but the latter may indicate a more complicated problem within the brain that may need surgery.
  • Thunderclap headaches are, like their name suggests, headaches that feel like a thunderclap that catches you by surprise. They can be extremely painful, but peaks within the first sixty seconds. The aftermath can last from an hour to a week. Be sure to see a doctor if you experience thunderclap headaches because they can be an indicator of a life threatening condition such as a stroke.

When To See A Doctor

If your headache has a high recurring rate, worsens or becomes debilitating, it would be wise to see a doctor for effective management. Headaches should not be something that impedes with your everyday activities or have a significant, altering effect on your daily routine. If you find your headache causes you excruciating or unbearable pain, seek medical help immediately.

Home Remedies And Tips

If the headache is not debilitating, here are some home remedies you can use to alleviate headache symptoms without seeing a professional:

  • Breathe deeply and calmly
  • Use over the counter pain relievers when needed
  • Relax
  • Lie in a cool, dark, neutral room
  • Use a cool or warm compress if it helps
  • Massage the affected area to help relieve pressure
  • Turn of all music and avoid all external stimulants

This guide should be used to help you gain a better understanding of headaches, why they occur and what they can be linked to. When your headache is accompanied by other symptoms, it may be a good idea to see a doctor to rule out other possible underlying medical conditions.


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