Headaches 101: What you need to know

21:29, Mar 03 2014
BE PREPARED: Arming yourself with the relevant info will help you combat the pain when a headache strikes.

Urgh, headaches. No one's a fan, so what gives?

They're probably the most common ailment and you'd be darn lucky if you've never experienced one before.

And if you happen to be one of the not-so-lucky you've probably been zapped with a few different kinds.

Throbbing, nausea, visual disturbances, vomiting - there's nothing really good that comes from having one.

And if you thought nipping it in the bud with some pain killers will do the trick, that can actually set off another. No, kidding.

So while it's good to know that not all headaches are the same, it's wise you get up to speed on the causes, triggers and the treatments. Just so you know exactly what you're dealing with.


And whenever in doubt consult your medical physician.


What is it? This is the most common type of headache and usually presents as a steady, throbbing ache or pressure around the head, temples and even in the neck.

How long does it last? Luckily, most of these are short-lived. But if it's still pounding away for longer than 30 minutes, it's a good possibility it could carry on into the next day.

What causes it? Bad posture, hunger, lack of sleep, dehydration, lack of sleep or even strong scents like perfume.

Treatments? You can generally treat these ones with some over-the-counter medications like paracetamol, ibuprofen - or a combination of the two. But also try re-hydrating with water and removing yourself from loud, noisy areas.


What is it? A migraine-type headache that occurs around the time of your period. Is there no end?

How long does it last? Can occur three days before your period and a few days into the start of your period. But not to be confused with general headaches that you can experience with PMS.

What causes it?  A sudden drop in estrogen just before your period can trigger the onset of a migraine.

Treatments? Over-the-counter pain relief, magnesium supplements or specific migraine medications prescribed by your doctor.


What is it? Throbbing pain to the head or isolated to one side, followed by sensitivy to light and sound. These are probably the nastiest of them all and can quickly cause nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances.

How long does it last? Anywhere from four hours to three days, and can happen a few times a month.

What causes it? The exact cause is unknown, but genetics are said to have a place. So if your mum or dad gets them, chances are you will, too. Other triggers include stress, weather, and sleeping and eating patterns.

Treatments? Standard over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen might help, but chronic migraine sufferers will usually be prescribed a drug from the triptan family by their physician. And it's best to find a dark room with a comfy bed to lay down in.


What is it? A nasty throbbing or aching feeling that's felt over the bridge of the nose, forehead, around the eyes and over the cheekbones in the sinus cavity.

How long does it last? Anywhere from 72 hours to five days if it's a severe infection.

What causes it? Allergies, cold and flu or sinus infections. When you're feeling congested and all stuffed up in the nose, the build up of fluid can cause the headache feeling. It is generally worsened by head movements like bending over to pick something up.

Treatments? Allergy or cold and flu medications that help to decongest, nasal irrigation or standard ibuprofen or paracetamol to help with pain. If it is an infection there is the chance you might need a course of antibiotics.


What is it? Rare but classed as one of the most painful types and is more common in the lads than women. Presents as severe stabbing pain, generally on one side of the head, and pain has said to be so bad that it's often referred to as a 'suicide headache'.

How long does it last?  Anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours, but can occur several times a day in "clusters" or waves and can continue for weeks to months.

What causes it? It's still being figured out, but research is suggesting that they can be triggered by low magnesium levels in the blood. Best be getting your RDI of magnesium, right?

Treatments? Fast-acting treatments can include oxygen therapy, triptans, local anaesthetics and other emergency drugs.


What is it? Appears as a typical tension-like headache, but can be difficult to diagnose when the cause is taking too much pain relief.

How long does it last? If you keep taking meds to nip it in the bud, you can actually cause a bit of a never-ending cycle. 

What causes it? This one's caused just by the over-use of those friendly pain killers.

Treatments? Treatment can vary, so it's best to discuss this one with your doctor.

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