Skip to main content
types of headaches and head pain women

What Is a Headache?

Whether you’re under pressure, under the weather, or just hit by a sudden storm of pain — virtually all of us have experienced a headache at some point or another. The most common of all are what doctors call “tension-type” headaches, and they can feel like a giant rubber band squeezing your skull, creating soreness in your head, neck and shoulders.

For some, your headache might be a migraine when just one side of your head pulses and throbs, your vision gets a little wonky, or you just start to feel queasy. In this case, it’s best to quietly lie down, relax and call your doctor.

Even though scientists aren’t 100 percent sure what’s causing that splitting sensation in our heads, recent studies blame overactive or problematic nociceptors.

Couple smiles while cooking in a kitchen

Save on Excedrin

Get printable coupons and special offers to save on Excedrin.

Get coupons

While headaches themselves do not originate in the brain, nociceptors are found in the muscles of the head and neck, as well as in the sensitive membrane called the meninges surrounding the brain and spinal cord. When triggered by a variety of factors, including muscle tension, blood vessel constriction, or inflammation, nociceptors in the head and neck region become hypersensitive. These hyperactive nociceptors transmit pain signals to the brain, creating the throbbing, aching sensations characteristic of headaches.

Anything causing stress can also serve as a headache trigger, whether it's sleepless nights, excessive workload, or physical strains like teeth grinding and poor posture.

While most headaches are not usually a cause for concern, severe or recurrent headaches may require medical evaluation and treatment

More from Excedrin