Types of Headache You Can Have

There are a variety of headache types, including migraine headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and tension headaches. Each of these are due to very different causes, but all of them can be very troublesome. Understanding the distribution of pain and characteristics of each headache type will help you properly assess and treat your condition. 


Vascular Headaches

Mature woman with head in hands and eyes closed
Getty Images/Christopher Robbins

Migraine and cluster headaches are two types of headaches. Each is characterized by an involvement of blood vessels in the brain and/or skull.

The skull and tissues surrounding the brain have an intricate system of blood vessels used to nourish, transport neurochemicals, eliminate waste, as well as a number of other functions. When the flow in these vessels changes, or when the vessels themselves begin to spasm or change shape, headaches can occur. Migraines and cluster headaches are two types of headaches that are primarily caused by these changes in vascular flow.


Types of Headaches - A Visual Description

Woman suffering from headache
Getty Images/Letizia Le Fur

Understanding the typical distribution of pain for the main types of headaches can help determine what types of headaches you are experiencing.

There are four "basic" types of headaches: migraines, cluster headaches, tension headaches, and sinus headaches. There are other types as well, but these are the main ones that affect most people. Each has a different distribution of pain, although overlap can occur. It is helpful to identify the pattern of your pain so you can discuss symptoms accurately with a health care professional. He or she can then best suggest a treatment plan that is individualized for you.


Sinus Headaches - Description

My sinuses are so blocked!
Getty Images/Yuri_Arcurs

Sinus headaches occur when the sinuses become inflamed or congested. Many people believe they are suffering from sinus headaches when they are in fact experiencing migraine headaches. Sinus headaches are often accompanied by symptoms such as nasal drainage, fever, congestion, or facial pain.

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