The 5 Most Common Types of Headaches

No one likes to feel a headache coming on. A bad one can put you off your whole day. You can struggle to focus on your work or enjoy time with family. You may lose your appetite or become short-tempered and impatient because of the pain. Some can even radiate downward and cause pain throughout your neck and shoulders.

Headache Walnut Creek

Typically, people only talk about two different kinds of headaches: a standard one and a migraine. But there are many different kinds, and even different kinds of migraines. Each one has a different cause and can affect you in different ways. And each one needs a different sort of treatment. Some may only require a couple pain relief pills and a nap. Others might need the help of a chiropractor. Some can last a few hours while others can last for months.

In order to have the best treatment, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with in the first place. Here’s everything you need to know about the five most common types of headaches.

Tension Headaches

Also called stress headaches, this is your most common kind. It’s “the standard headache,” if you will.  They are a dull pain, generally like a clamp against your head and neck. They can last between 30 minutes and a few days. When chronic, they’re deemed tension headaches. They’re typically caused by things like stress at work or school, anxiety, or even bad posture. If you’ve ever felt your head start to ache the longer you’ve gone without sleep, you know the feeling of a tension headache.

Fortunately, these are some of the easiest ones to treat. Pain relief medications can help, as well as ice packs or a hot bath. If you’re constantly in a stressful situation, your tension headaches will probably recur, and you’ll need to find ways of managing stress, but in the short term, they are easily treatable.


If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know this is no ordinary headache. This is not the kind that can be made better by turning the computer off and taking some tylenol. Migraines are violently intense headaches, often causing nausea and vomiting. They can last for days. They’re very common in the United States, but more common in women than men. It’s hard to know the exact cause of migraines, although chiropractic care shows that they can sometimes be brought on by a misalignment of the spine. Medical professionals recognize triggers like stress, caffeine withdrawals, PMS symptoms, or significant changes to your schedule that could potentially cause migraines. Migraines are also hereditary, so you’re more likely to struggle with migraines if someone in your family does, too. Some migraines come with auras, or lighter visual symptoms that warn when a migraine is coming. These include blurry vision, flashing lights, or even temporary loss of vision. However, not all migraines come with auras and thus forewarning can’t always be counted on.

Besides the intense pain, migraines can put a strain on you financially. When you have a migraine, it’s impossible to get through a day at work. Because of this, Americans lose roughly $31 billion each year in sick days or inability to perform work functions.

Some forms of chiropractic care, like the headache treatment practiced by Advanced Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care in Walnut Creek, are used to treat migraines. Misalignments in the spine can sometimes lead to migraines, especially chronic migraines. Chiropractic care is a natural way to realign the spine and relieve the pressure causing the migraine. Otherwise, pain relievers or preventative medicines can be used to treat migraines, as well as the recently approved transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS).

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches, much like their name, arrive in clusters. They attack one side of the head at a time with severe, focused pain. They occur most frequently during spring and fall, and they’re often mistakenly associated with sinus headaches for that reason as well as for the similar symptoms. Often, these are accompanied by runny nose or inflamed sinuses, though these are not the same as sinus based ones. Because these headaches are uneven, it can be difficult to take a nap as might be the case with other types of headaches. These come on quickly, as quickly as 5-10 minutes, and last for short bursts of time, but typically occur every day for months at a time without treatment. If you notice eye redness, face redness, watering eyes or runny noses out of the blue, you may be able to expect a cluster headache to follow soon after.

These headaches have no cure, but there are treatments that can lessen the pain and make them easier to live with. Pain medications can help. Oxygen masks and certain injectable medications can also work to reduce the pain. The most popular injectable for cluster headaches is sumatriptan (Imitrex). Prescription medications can sometimes prevent cluster headaches. Oddly, lithium is one drug often prescribed to prevent cluster headaches. Fortunately, these the least common of the five types of headaches on this list. They affect 1 in 1,000 people, often beginning before the age of 30.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are something that most of us are familiar with. As pollen levels rise, sinuses start to swell. Besides the runny nose, watery eyes, and the feeling that your entire face has swelled five times, there are often headaches associated with this season. These headaches often come with fever, and sometimes pus can be seen through a fiber-optiscope with the presence of sinus headaches. These headaches affect anyone typically affected by seasonal allergies. Because other headaches look like sinus headaches, it’s important to know what kind of headache you have before you seek treatment. A doctor can perform an MRI to see if your sinuses are blocked, causing a sinus headache.

Fortunately, because these headaches go hand-in-hand with seasonal allergies, the treatments tend to be the same. Allergy medicine, antibiotics and decongestant nasal spray can all help to bring down sinus headaches and return your head to normal puff levels. Of course, different people have different experiences with seasonal allergies and effectiveness varies. Taking sinus medication for longer than three days can cause it to become ineffective or even make the symptoms worse. If a sinus headache is severe enough, sinus surgery may be required. Sometimes the best way to treat these headaches is to just drink lots of water, take plenty of naps, and wait them out.

Rebound Headaches

Some of the most frustrating types of headaches are one that can’t be relieved with pain relief medication…because medication is the problem. Rebound headaches occur as a response to medication of some kind, especially medication involve caffeine. Often, people use pain relief medication to relieve them and find relief for a few hours, only to have a returned headache stronger than the last. If you have tension headaches due to caffeine withdrawals, rebound ones can come as a result of using pain relief medicine.  They are most frequently caused by aspirin, sinus medication, NSAIDs, and sleep medication. They  also occur for those who have drinking problems, much like the headaches experienced in hangovers.

Before treating a rebound, ensure that it is a rebound you’re experiencing and not something caused by other problems, like bad posture, stress, or chronic tension. Talk to a doctor or a local chiropractor to ensure that medication is the problem, or that the rebound headaches aren’t simply a symptom of a larger issue. You may also find that you get rebound headaches simply by not following the doctor’s instructions for pain medication, taking too much or too little, too close together. You may be able to adjust your dosage, and thus the effectiveness of it. If not, the best way to recover is to wean yourself off of medication with natural pain relief like chiropractic care, turning off all bright devices, taking a nap or a hot bath.

Often, tension, cluster, and sinus headaches can look very similar. Rebound head pains can also take a long time to diagnose, as people often assume them to be a recurrence of their previous ones and take medication that they hope will prevent it. Migraines and headaches can also sometimes be a symptom of something more serious. That may be a misaligned spine or it may be a chronic condition, something best caught early for the sake of treatment. Whatever the case, it’s important to contact your doctor to ensure that you’re treating your headaches in the most effective way and that your headache isn’t masking a bigger problem.


Chiropractic Care in Walnut Creek, CA

If headaches go untreated, they can last for weeks or months. They can cost you hundreds in wages or even your job if you have to take too much time off. More than that, they can cost you quality of life. Take your headaches seriously and do your research to ensure that you’re using the right treatment for the right kind of headache.

At Advance Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we believe in looking at each patient holistically in order to determine the root cause of whatever pain they may be having. This allows us to treat the symptoms and diagnosis effectively. We consider every treatment option and find the right plan for every patient. We understand that pain is unique for each person, so treatment must be equally as unique. Our upper cervical care is unparalleled. Call today to set up an appointment with a great Walnut Creek chiropractor.

To schedule a consultation with Advance Upper Cervical Chiropractic
call 925-357-3080 or just click the button below.

Schedule a Compliementary Consultation