Headache Definition

The term headache is used to describe a pain or discomfort in the head or neck. It is one of the most common medical problems and is the cause of untold hours in which work is missed, dates are broken and frustration reigns for those who are regular headache sufferers.

Determining what the cause of a headache is can be a very difficult process for the physician and patient. Bear in mind that the brain itself does not feel pain. It has no pain sensors.


Headaches can be caused by eyestrain. Either a person is working too much at their computer, or with delicate equipment, or possibly they simply need glasses. A trip to the eye doctor may be able to fix this headache problem. Other causes can be more serious like meningitis, brain tumor, encephalitis or an injury to the head and can require treatment by a neurologist.

Less serious headaches can be caused by poor sleep, stress, and caffeine withdrawal or even from unknowingly becoming dehydrated. Toothaches or sinus infections can also cause headaches. All of these less serious headaches can be cured relatively easily.

Types of Headaches

Physicians divide headaches into four types. These are muscular, also known as myogenic or tension headaches, traction, vascular and inflammatory. Muscular headaches are pretty much self-explanatory and are always caused by the tightening of facial or neck muscles. With these kinds of headaches the pain is usually in the forehead. The tension headache is the most common of this type.

Vascular headaches are the cause of migraines. The difference between the two is that migraine pain is at the temples not the center of the head. Migraine pain also frequently has other symptoms that accompany it like stomach discomforts, nausea and sensitivity to light. Migraines tend to be more often a womans headache. The next most common vascular headache is fever related.

Both traction headaches and inflammatory headaches are most often signs of more serious problems.

Most headaches can be treated with simple non-prescription pain medications. These are called analgesics and include aspirin or ibuprofen. Migraines will require prescription medications and there are several that are fairly successful.

If your headache does not stop hurting it means you should see your health care provider to determine if perhaps it is related to something more serious.

If your headache pain is continuous with no simple explanation your health care provider will need a family history first and then a list of any accompanying symptoms, and the all the details including if theres a pattern to any of the headache pain. If necessary, tests will be conducted to look for anything that might be causing the headache pain.

These tests could include a CT scan of the brain, and an MRI, blood work and urine analysis. Most headache pain is found to have a simple explanation. There is usually nothing serious found to worry about. But if it is serious your health care provider will know what to do to make your headaches go away and get rid of the pain and discomfort that headaches can bring.

Last Updated on November 11, 2022

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