Headaches are very common, and most of the time they’re little more than a brief nuisance. However, some people experience headaches significant enough to prevent them from working or functioning during an episode.
Internal medicine physician Samuel Fink, MD, provides comprehensive primary care, including headache management. If you’re struggling with chronic headaches, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with Dr. Fink for an evaluation and to discuss your treatment options.
Most common types of headaches
There are more than 100 types of headaches, but many headaches fall into three categories: migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Here, we go over each of these types of headaches in more detail.
This is the most common type of headache. You usually feel pain on both sides of your head, and symptoms often come on gradually, building to a peak. Stress that causes muscle tension is thought to play a role in tension-type headaches.
Migraines cause intense, throbbing head pain that often accompanies other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. About 25% of people with migraines experience neurological symptoms before the head pain strikes, called aura. These symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in speech
- Seeing flashes of light
- Blind spots
- Temporary vision loss
Aura tends to occur about an hour before head pain starts.
Cluster headaches cause sudden, excruciating pain, typically behind your eyes. Less common than migraine and tension headaches, cluster headaches earn their name because they usually occur in groups. Cluster periods may last days or weeks, typically followed by long periods without symptoms (remission).
What causes headaches
Scientists are unsure of the exact cause of headaches. There are some clues to what might contribute to different types of headaches. For instance, 75% of people who experience migraines are women, suggesting hormones may contribute to migraine attacks.
Further, women often report migraines that occur a day or two before their period. Often referred to as menstrual migraines, this type of headache appears to be influenced by hormonal fluctuations.
Inflammation of certain nerves and widening of blood vessels may contribute to cluster headaches, and tense muscles in the neck and head may trigger tension-type headaches.
Getting relief from headaches
While the occasional headache may not interfere with your life, frequent or recurring headaches can be quite debilitating and affect your quality of life. If you’re dealing with chronic headaches, treatment can help.
Getting relief for your painful headaches involves finding the right combination of therapies to ease the frequency and intensity of your headache episodes. Keeping a record of your daily habits is a good way to detect potential triggers.
Your treatment may include fast-acting medication that cuts headache pain and medication that aims to keep headaches at bay. Some medications work by blocking certain pathways in the brain to bring you relief. Preventive medications such as tricyclic antidepressants are used to manage migraines.
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications, such as engaging in stress-relieving activities, along with other therapies. Certain foods are linked to certain types of headaches, so your provider also may recommend modifying your diet to determine if that helps ease your headaches.
Dr. Fink's treatment approach depends on the type of headache you have and other factors, such as your lifestyle and medical history.
If chronic headaches are getting in the way of going about your regular day, we can help. To get started, call our office in Tarzana, California, and speak with one of our knowledgeable and friendly staff members to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fink. New and existing patients are also welcome to submit a booking request online.