While most of the time headaches are relatively minor and will go away on their own, for some people they can be a chronic problem and a serious blight.
If this is the case, it’s important to properly identify what type of headache you’re experiencing. If you’re experiencing ongoing headaches, or if you also have other symptoms alongside the head pain, check in with your GP.
Here are four different types of headache and how to manage them ...
1. Tension-type headaches
Tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache, characterised by a dull pain, tightness or pressure around your forehead.
Triggers can include: excessive emotional stress, pressure at work, poor posture, dehydration and squinting. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to help relieve pain in the short-term. In the long-term, lifestyle measures - such as yoga, massage and exercise - can help with manage symptoms and underlying stress.
2. Cluster headaches
These are mega-intense bouts of headaches that cause excruciating pain around or behind one eye. As well as a sudden piercing pain that radiates from the eye to one side of the head, cluster headaches can also cause the eye to water or swell up, your face to sweat and your nose to run. They’re notoriously immensely painful.
If you think you’re experiencing cluster headaches, make an appointment to see a GP. Tests may be required to rule out any other conditions that can have similar symptoms. Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol aren’t effective for cluster headaches.
3. Sinus headaches
Headaches can often be brought on by other medical conditions, such as sinusitis. When sinuses become inflamed, often as a result of an infection, they swell and produce more mucus, which can block the channels that drain them. This build-up pressure can lead to sinus pain. Getting plenty of rest, water and taking painkillers can help relieve symptoms. Decongestant nasal sprays or drops can help unblock your nose and relieve some of the pressure.
4. Migraine headache
A migraine isn’t a headache - it is an extremely painful collection of neurological symptoms, one of which is throbbing head pain. Additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and increased sensitivity to light or sound, as well as visual disturbances, and sometimes suddenly feeling dizzy and disorientated. Migraines also tend to come and go on a long-term basis, with ‘attacks’ brought on by certain triggers.
You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms. Over-the-counter painkillers may not be effective, and could also cause additional headaches if taken for too long. Resting or lying in a darkened room and avoiding bright lights and screens helps.