What is a Headache?

A headache is a pain in the head that is located above the eyes or the ears, behind the head, or in the back of the upper neck. Like “chest pain” or “dizziness”, headache is a general term that can be used to describe many types of head pain.

Can You Show Me Where It Hurts?

Strangely enough, the network of nerves in and around your head are so intertwined with other parts of the nervous system that a problem in one part of the head can actually be felt in another. A pain caused by a disturbance in the front of the skull can be felt as a stabbing pain at the back the head and, in certain rare cases, problems with nerves in the eyes are perceived as pain in the lower back. Weird, huh? This complicated network often makes it difficult and confusing for both doctor and patient to deal with and treat headaches.

Headache Myths and Realities: the pain isn't in the brain

When you have a headache, it often seems to be the inside of your head or your brain that's hurting. But you may be surprised to know that your brain, for the most part, lacks the specialized nerves that transmit pain messages. So headaches do not arise from pain caused by your brain.

So where does that darn pain come from?  

When you have a headache, it's most likely one of these three systems that is sending pain signals to your brain:

  • Muscles
  • Blood vessels (the arteries and veins that supply the brain, face and scalp with blood and take it away)
  • Sinuses


The blood vessels of the brain don't just have a few nerve endings here and there (oh, wouldn't it be nice?). They actually have a whole network of very fine fibers, which are super-sensitive to stretching. In other words, whenever these blood vessels dilate--yep, you guessed it--headache.

Read on to learn about how to prevent headaches.

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