A headache is defined as pain in any part of the head and may be described as throbbing, dull or sharp. Pain in the forehead area is common. Different types of headaches exist; based on your symptoms, your doctor can determine the cause of your headache and how to treat it. Most headaches are not due to something serious. Consult with your doctor, however, if your headache is accompanied by symptoms such as stiff neck, dizziness or nausea.
A tension headache is the most common kind of headache. People who experience tension headaches feel as though they have a tight band wrapped around their head. The pain is described as a dull, aching sensation. The muscles of the neck, scalp and shoulders may feel tender. A tension headache can last a half hour to as long as a week. Although tension headaches can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from migraine headaches, migraines are sometimes accompanied by visual symptoms, while tension headaches are not.
Tension Headache Causes
Tension headaches can be caused if scalp and neck muscles become tense. This can be brought on by depression, anxiety, a head injury or stress. If you hold your head in the same position for an extended amount of time, such as at a computer, a tension headache may result. Other causes of tension headaches may include jaw clenching, excessive smoking, sinus infection, eye strain, overexertion and viral illnesses, such as a cold or the flu.
Migraines and Cluster Headaches
Migraine headaches are also common. They are sometimes accompanied by symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite and sensitivity to light. The pain is often described as throbbing and is usually only felt on one side of the head. Some migraines are triggered by certain foods, such as chocolate, processed foods and the food additive MSG. Other migraine triggers include loud noises, bright lights, hormonal changes, allergic reactions, certain odors and changes in sleep patterns. Cluster headaches, which are more common in men than women, are a form of repeated, chronic headache. A cluster headache, which is one-sided, begins suddenly and affects the area from the neck to the temple. The pain is severe and sometimes involves a stuffy nose and tearing of the eye.
Tension headaches are often treated with pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or aspirin. Some over-the-counter treatments combine medicines like aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine. Over-the-counter medications should not be used more than nine days a month, however, or they may cause rebound headaches that keep coming back, according to MayoClinic.com. Migraines may be treated with medication, such as triptans, ergots or isometheptene. Triptans may also be effective for cluster headaches, as well as oxygen treatment, injection with dihydroergotamine or treatment with a steroid medication.