Everyone experiences a headache at least once in their life. In fact, they’re so common that they’re one of the top health complaints.
If you’ve had more than one headache — and you probably have — you may have noticed that sometimes the pain occurs in a different area than usual. This is because not every headache is the same. There are over 100 types of headaches, varying in intensity, symptoms, and how they manifest.
At Houston Pain Specialists, we know how disruptive headaches can be. That’s why our board-certified pain management specialist, Hui Kang, MD, works hard to provide excellent treatment options based on your specific condition and needs.
In this blog, we discuss the most common types of headaches and what we can do to help you feel better.
Causes of headaches
Headaches come in many forms and can be caused by factors that can occur individually or simultaneously. Some causes include:
- High blood pressure
- Overuse of pain medications
- Teeth-grinding while sleeping
In more severe instances, headaches can be the result of brain bleeds.
Most of the time, headaches go away on their own or with simple over-the-counter medications. But if you experience recurring, persistent, or worsening headaches, it could be a sign of something more sinister.
Headaches that occur alongside other symptoms like confusion, fever, or neck stiffness could indicate something serious, and you should see a doctor immediately.
There are three main types of headaches that occur most often:
The most common type of headache is the tension headache. The typical causes are stress and muscle tension. Genetics and the environment are thought to play a role as well.
The onset of this type of headache is slow, with moderate pain building on each side and/or the back of your head and neck. Tension headaches can be chronic, perhaps even occurring daily.
At one point or another, you’ve likely asked a friend out for drinks or a movie and they’ve responded with, “I can’t this time. I have a migraine.” Unlike other headaches, migraines are very intense and often present with throbbing pain, light and sound sensitivity, nausea and possible vomiting, and loss of appetite.
They can sometimes last for days, and the usual over-the-counter pain relievers may not suffice. Migraines tend to run in families, which suggests a genetic component, though they can also be caused by chemical imbalances in your brain.
A cluster headache is a severe type of headache. Cluster headaches are known to occur suddenly, typically behind one eye, and tend to occur in groups. The frequency of this type of headache can be daily, or even multiple times a day, and can last between one and three hours.
Cluster headaches are less common than migraines or tension headaches, and they’re often brought on by heat, bright light, tobacco or alcohol use, or foods containing nitrates.
How we can help
When you come in for an appointment with Dr. Kang, he goes over your symptoms and their severity and frequency. He then works with you to create a treatment plan that’s personalized and effective. He may recommend conservative treatments to start, which can include:
- Bed rest
- Botox® injections for migraines
- Caffeine dosages
- Hot/cold compresses
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Prescription medications
Another treatment option is the third occipital nerve block, which we use to target pain that arises from issues in the cervical region. We may recommend this option if a neurologist has told you that there’s nothing more that can be done.
During this procedure, Dr. Kang injects pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medication into the area where the nerve crosses your skull. Once you receive the medication, relief can come within minutes. Additional injections may be necessary in order to keep your symptoms under control.
Since tension headaches are often induced by stress, regular exercise and other stress-relieving activities can be quite helpful. Try dancing, doing something tactile, taking a bath, stretching, or meditating.
For cluster headaches, lifestyle changes like avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking may be necessary. We may prescribe preventive or rescue medications for migraines. Consistent and quality sleep is also important for warding off headaches.
Whether you’re experiencing headaches for the first time or you’ve been living with them for some time, our team at Houston Pain Specialists is here to help relieve your pain. Contact our Houston, Texas, office today to find relief from headache pain.