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What Are The Different Types of Headaches?

Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed by Mohommed Essop-AdamReviewed on 30.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Headaches are a common health issue that can be classified into different types based on their underlying causes. Understanding the types of headaches can help in determining appropriate treatment approaches. Primary headaches are those without an underlying cause, while secondary headaches are caused by other health problems or medications. Headaches can also be categorized as chronic or episodic depending on their frequency.

How are Headaches Categorized?

Headaches are broadly categorized into two main types: primary and secondary. Primary headaches are not associated with any underlying medical condition, while secondary headaches have an identifiable cause or trigger.

What Are The Types of Headaches?

Primary headaches encompass three main types:

  1. Migraine (including Aura & Menstrual Migraine): Migraines are typically characterized by severe, throbbing pain on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes visual disturbances.
  2. Tension Headaches: Tension headaches usually present as a dull, aching pain, often described as a tight band around the head. They can be caused by stress, muscle tension, or poor posture.
  3. Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches are intense headaches that occur in cyclical patterns or clusters. They are characterized by excruciating pain around one eye or temple, accompanied by nasal congestion and eye redness.

Secondary headaches can be caused by various underlying conditions, including:

These are just a few examples, as secondary headaches can have numerous causes.

Can Primary Headaches Be Treated with Painkillers?

Painkillers can be effective in managing primary headaches. For tension headaches, simple pain relievers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (separate or in combination) are often helpful. Migraines may require specific medications like Sumatriptan, which can be obtained from a pharmacy after consulting with a pharmacist. If over-the-counter painkillers do not provide sufficient relief for migraines or cluster headaches, alternative treatment approaches may be necessary.

Pharmacist recommended products

Tension Headache Health Kit
Effective relief for
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Replenish electrolytes
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Restore fluid balance
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Prevents dehydration
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Herbal pain relief
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Locally acting massage balm
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Unique herbal blend
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Invigorating scent
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Warming pain relief
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Relax tense neck & shoulder muscles
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Dual action pain relief
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£23.26
Recommended by healthwords.ai pharmacist
Why this Health Kit

Tension headaches are usually described as mild and last from 30 minutes to a few hours. However, it can feel different when you experience one for yourself, bringing on pain and tenderness in the head, neck and shoulders, and it feels difficult to concentrate on ordinary tasks. While it’s comforting to think it will go away eventually, it's useful to find certain medications that can help.

This Health Kit aims to:

  • Reduce headache and neck and shoulder pain

  • Provide soothing relief of forehead, temples, and neck muscles with either heat or cold.

  • Restore electrolyte and fluid balance to help you recover.

Nuromol contains two active ingredients: ibuprofen and paracetamol. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever from a group of medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Paracetamol is another type of pain reliever that works differently from ibuprofen to relieve pain. This is a powerful combination of two active ingredients in the same tablet is very effective for many kinds of pain, including tension headaches, and gets to work from the inside out.

When you are stressed, tired, overworked or have poor posture, your neck and shoulders carry the strain, and this can bring on tension headaches. Inspired by centuries of Chinese wisdom and containing a unique blend of herbal ingredients, Tiger Balm White Ointment is a proven, safe and effective herbal ointment for treating tension headaches. It targets aching and painful areas to soothe muscles and ease away any headache. Each little jar is a powerful drug-free treatment, and with use over time, the distinctive smell can prompt aromatic memories that help to heal before you’ve even put it on.

Deep Heat Pain Relief Patches uses penetrating heat to relax stiff and aching neck and shoulder muscles that have got knotted up with tension. Healthcare professionals recognise and recommend heat therapy for muscular pain and stiffness. Therapeutic heat from the patch delivers target pain relief right where you need it, working from the outside in, while pain relief medications deliver relief from the inside.

O.R.S. Hydration tablets can help replenish fluid and electrolytes, reversing any dehydration or electrolyte imbalance that may have caused your tension headache. The lemon flavour also contains vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which can help boost energy levels.

Using the products in this Health Kit together, with different modes of action, can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of tension headaches and rebalance electrolyte and fluid balance, helping you to get on with your day.

Note: Always read the information leaflets and specific product information before purchasing, as some products may not be suitable for all patients. This may be especially true if you take any other medicines or suffer from other medical conditions. If you are unsure about anything, please speak to your local pharmacist, doctor, or another qualified health practitioner.

Can Secondary Headaches Be Treated with Painkillers?

Secondary headaches have an underlying cause, and treating the cause itself is usually the most effective way to alleviate the headache. However, in some cases, the underlying cause may be challenging to treat immediately, take time to resolve (e.g., infections), or be untreatable. Painkillers can be used to manage the headache symptoms while addressing the underlying cause.

When to See a Doctor

It is advisable to consult a doctor if you experience any of the following headache symptoms:

  • Increased frequency of headaches
  • Increased severity of headaches
  • Headaches that do not improve with over-the-counter drugs
  • Headaches that interfere with daily activities, work, or sleep
  • Headaches causing distress and requiring better treatment options

Certain types of secondary headaches may require urgent medical attention, including headaches resulting from head injuries, sudden severe headaches (known as "Thunderclap Headaches"), headaches with symptoms of meningitis, and headaches with symptoms of a stroke.

It's essential to be aware of these rare but potentially serious types of headaches and seek medical help accordingly.

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Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed by Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed on 30.10.2023
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