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Know the six most common types of headaches — and how to avoid them

Whether the pain in your head is throbbing, constant, sharp or dull, it all falls under the category of headache. Most people will experience a headache in their lifetime, and up to 75% of adults in the world have had a headache within the past year. Since there are more than 150 types of headaches, not every person’s pain is the same. The most common headaches can be generally grouped into the following six categories.

  • Tension headaches: These are the most common headache pains and tend to be a consistent, mild to moderate pain felt on both sides of the head. The pain is made more severe during routine activities like bending over or climbing stairs. 
  • Migraines: The pain from migraines, the second-most common headache type, is more severe and often throbbing. The pain can last from four hours up to three days. Stomach upset or nausea can accompany the pain. Light, noise or strong odors can increase pain levels. 
  • Cluster headaches: In most cases, these are the most severe headaches and occur in groups up to eight times a day over a period of two weeks to three months. The pain is often stabbing and can occur behind or near the eyes. They often occur in the spring or fall.shutterstock_381900493
  • New daily persistent headaches: This type of pain, felt on both sides of the head, comes on suddenly and typically occurs in people who haven’t had headaches before. The pain can last for up to three months.
  • Sinus headaches: When there is an infection in the sinuses, a deep pain in the forehead and cheekbone can be felt. There may even been swelling on the face, a fever, a bad taste in the mouth and a feeling of fullness in the ears. The pain becomes more intense with sudden head movement or strenuous activity. 
  • Medication overuse headaches: Also known as rebound headaches, these headaches occur after frequent use of headache pain reliever medicine. If the headaches seem to increase and are worse in the morning, it may be due to an overuse of headache pain relievers.


If a person is experiencing other symptoms beyond pain, like weakness, numbness, paralysis, confusion or shortness of breath, consult a healthcare professional. When headaches occur more than three times a week and seem to get worse, seek help from a healthcare professional. It is helpful to keep a log of headache symptoms and frequency before seeing the doctor. This information is valuable in determining the cause and treatment options.


The key to preventing headaches is often figuring out what triggers them. Remember that not all people react the same way to triggers. For some people, strong perfume, paint odors or pollution can trigger a headache. Stressful situations, as well as foods like chocolate or aged cheeses, can also be headache triggers. If you can detect a trigger, take steps to control them. Relaxation exercises and biofeedback techniques can often help with managing stress triggers. Not everyone can be successful in identifying triggers on their own, so you may need to consult a professional for help.shutterstock_1924712126


After a medical event or surgery, managing pain is important to ease recovery. In addition to the headaches listed, there are many types of secondary headaches that can occur due to medical conditions like high blood pressure, infection and other issues. An effective way to get around-the-clock help in a short-term care facility with the goal of returning each guest to an active lifestyle as soon as possible. 

Whitehall of Deerfield on the North Shore has earned a solid reputation for providing an effective patient experience. The well-respected center has consistently received Medicare’s highest rating in Medicare’s five-star rating system of nursing and post-hospital rehabilitation centers. Whitehall of Deerfield has also once again been named to Newsweek magazine’s 2022 list of best post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers in Illinois. In addition, Whitehall has continued to receive U.S. News & World Report’s “Top Performing” rating.  For a patient experience that has been rated as one of the best, choose Whitehall of Deerfield.

300 Waukegan Road Deerfield, IL 60015 | 847.945.4600