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Headache is when a person experiences pain in head, neck or upper back. It’s amongst one of the most common pains and almost everyone is ailed by a headache once in a while. Though these pains are occasional and mild in nature, for some people it becomes a real problem and affects their quality of life. At times, recurrent headaches may even point towards an underlying more serious problem. Headaches are usually benign and self-limiting in nature.

Different Types of headaches

There are several types of headaches, but few of the most common ones are -- tension / stress/ muscular headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, chronic daily headaches, Idiopathic intracranial hypertension, Ictal headache, Cluster headache, "Brain freeze" (also called ice cream headache), thunderclap headache, Vascular headache, Toxic headache, Coital echolalia, Hemicrania continua etc.

Headaches can be categorized into five broad categories -- vascular, myogenic (muscle tension), cervicogenic, traction, and inflammatory. Vascular headaches usually comprise of migraines. A migraine is featured by severe pain in the head (one or both sides), upset stomach and for few, disturbance in vision. This type is most common in women.

Migraines occur due to a neurological factor though vascular changes might happen too during a migraine. Other than migraine, vascular headaches also shows a headache, which is produced by fever, namely toxic headache. Cluster headaches are another type of vascular headache, which are severe, recurrent and last shortly. This kind of headache is located near the eye and is more common in men than women.

Muscular or myogenic headaches lead to the tightening or tensing of the facial or neck muscles and may radiate towards the forehead. The most common form of this type of headache is tension headache. Disorders of the neck, like cervical etc result in the carcinogenic headaches. These occur usually when the neck is moved or is stationed at awkward angles or positions.

These headaches are followed by the restricted movement of the cervical and neck, shoulders and arms may often experience mild and persistent pains. The next two, traction and inflammatory headaches often come as symptoms of other ailments like a stroke or a sinus infection, thus giving them the name.

Another basis of classification of headaches is -- primary or secondary headaches. Primary headaches are when these are individual in nature and not related to any other ailment. These do not prove fatal for the patient; though they might affect the quality of life one leads.

Secondary headaches are those which are the result of other ailments and conditions. For example, head injury, high blood pressure or a brain tumor etc might lead to these secondary headaches. In secondary headaches, if the root cause is not given immediate attention, it might prove fatal for the patient.

What Causes Headache

Tension, migraine, eye strain, dehydration, low blood sugar, and sinusitis are seen as the most common causes for the headaches. In case of secondary and more serious headaches, life-threatening ailments like meningitis, encephalitis, cerebral aneurysms, extremely high blood pressure and brain tumors become the cause for the headaches. In women, the headaches caused are usually because of the fluctuation in estrogen during their menstrual years.

Prevention of Headache

Exercise can help one reduce the number and severity of the headaches. Regular aerobic exercise helps in reduction of the stress and thus the frequency of headaches. Avoiding certain triggers like specific foods, alcohol etc may also be of help in keeping the headaches at bay.

Headache Relief

Identifying and treating the underlying cause of the headache is the most important step towards the treatment of the headache. Use of simple painkillers (aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen), or ibuprofen) and specific medicines like triptans or 5HT drugs help treat normal and severe headaches alike.

In the treatment of migraines, botox treatment has recently come up while other complementary therapies might help too. However, taking medications frequently can lead to worsening of the pain condition and chronic daily headaches, thus appropriately called analgesic-induced or drug-rebound headaches. In case of recurrent headaches, one should notice the symptoms, triggers, etc in order to get the diagnosis of the cause of the headaches.

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