Exploring the different types of headaches.

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints, and the vast majority of us have experienced a headache at some point in our lives – if not many times. But did you know that there are several different types of headaches, each with their own potential causes and symptoms?

Read on to learn about some of the most common types of headaches, and what makes them different from each other, with our handy guide to headache types. Discover how you can help to ease your headache pain with Excedrin.

Tension-Type Headaches

Tension headaches are your common, everyday headaches. According to the World Health Organization, they occur in 33% of all men, and over 50% of all women.i

Tension-type headaches are often described as feeling as if there’s a tight band being squeezed around your head, causing a dull ache on both sides. They are also sometimes associated with neck and shoulder stiffness or pain. Tension headaches can be either ‘episodic’, meaning they occur on fewer than 15 days a month, or ‘chronic’, meaning they occur 15 days or more a month for at least three months.ii, iii They can last just 30 minutes, or up to several days.ii

Learn more about tension headaches and what can cause them.


Migraine Headaches

Migraines are an intense and painful type of headache that affect around 12% of the US population.iv They can cause severe headache pain, often on just one side of the head. But migraine pain is not limited to one location — it can also radiate from the head to the face, sinuses, jaw and neck.

It is very common for migraines to be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting, and an increased sensitivity to light or sound – as well as several other unpleasant symptoms. They can last anywhere from an hour to three full days, and can severely impact a person’s daily life.v

Roughly 10-30% of migraine sufferers will experience a “migraine with aura”, during which a series of physical and visual warning signs develop over a 5- to 20-minute period before a migraine strikes.v, vi

Learn more about aura migraines and migraine without aura, and how to recognize them.


Cluster Headaches

This type of headache is commonly recognized as one of the most painful. Cluster headaches can cause excruciating pain on one side of the head, often around the eye. Like migraines, however, cluster headache pain can spread to other nearby locations, and can sometimes affect the nose and other areas of the face.

Cluster headache pain comes on suddenly and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. Attacks occur in ‘clusters’ or bunches (hence the name) of days, weeks or even months, before disappearing for long periods of remission. Cluster headaches are less common than other types of headaches, affecting roughly one in 1,000 adults. Most people first start developing them from their 20s or older. 

Learn more about cluster headaches.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are a little different to the other types of headaches in this list. They’re caused by an inflammation of the sinuses (the air-filled spaces behind your forehead, nasal bones, cheeks and eyes), usually due to a virus, infection or allergy.

Sinus headaches are characterized by a deep and constant pressure-like pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose, which often intensifies with sudden head movements or straining. This type of headache may also be accompanied by symptoms including nasal discharge, blocked ears, fever and facial swelling – depending on the underlying cause of the headache.

Learn more about sinus pressure headaches.

Ice Pick Headaches

Ice pick headaches (also known as ‘primary stabbing headaches’) are among the most painful and distressing types of headaches. They come on suddenly and without warning, and can cause sharp, stabbing pain around one eye or the temple. The location of ice pick headache pain may change, however, since it can often ‘zigzag’ from one side of the head to the other between attacks – which can recur multiple times a day.vii, viii

Thankfully, there is one silver lining to ice pick headaches: they typically only last for a fleeting moment (usually under three seconds) before disappearing as abruptly as they came on.vii

Learn more about ice pick headaches and their symptoms.  

Dehydration Headaches

This is a common type of headache that you may have experienced if you’ve gone too long without water throughout the day. A dehydration headache is exactly as the name describes: caused by a lack of fluids in the body.

Our bodies are stuck in a constant battle to retain the right balance of water and electrolytes, to make sure they can function properly. This is because we constantly lose fluid during the day through normal bodily secretions such as urine, sweat and saliva, so it’s important that we consistently replace that fluid. When the human body loses more fluid than it retains, it will become dehydrated – and headaches are a common symptom of dehydration.ix

Learn more about dehydration headaches and how to prevent them.

How Excedrin Can Help Your Headache

If you are suffering from a headache, whether it is a tension headache or a migraine, an over-the-counter headache relief medicine like Excedrin can help.  

For common headaches, Excedrin Extra Strength has a fast-acting formula that, for some, starts relieving headache pain in 15 minutes – to help you get back to your day fast.

If you’re experiencing a migraine, Excedrin Migraine is the number one neurologist-recommended OTC migraine treatment approved by the FDA for migraine relief.* And for tension headaches, try Excedrin Tension Headache for fast relief for head, neck, and shoulder pain associated with stress and tension.

Find out where to buy Excedrin products near you.

*Among OTC medicine for migraines. IQVIA, Inc., 2018

Show References

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i.  How common are headaches? World Health Organisation. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/how-common-are-headaches/ Accessed 06/07/20.

ii. Tension headache. Mayo Clinic.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20353977. Accessed 06/07/20.

iii. Tension-type headache. The Migraine Trust. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/other-headache-disorders/tension-type-headache/. Accessed 06/07/10.

iv. Migraine. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html. Accessed 06/07/20.

v. Migraine: what is it? The Migraine Trust. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/more-than-just-a-headache/. Accessed 06/07/20.

vi. Migraine with aura. The Migraine Trust. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/migraine-with-aura/. Accessed 06/07/20.

vii. Ice pick headaches. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/ice-pick-headaches/. Accessed 24/06/20

viii. Stabbing, Ice Pick Headaches? When You Should See a Doctor. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/stabbing-ice-pick-headaches-when-you-should-see-a-doctor/. Accessed 24/06/20.

ix. Headaches and dehydration. National Headache Foundation. https://headaches.org/2016/07/07/headaches-and-dehydration/. Accessed 07/07/20.



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