Types of Headaches

Classifying Headaches

Different experts have devised many different ways of classifying headaches, but here are the two main ways. First, all headaches can fall into one of two categories: primary and secondary. A primary headache is a headache which exists on its own, while a secondary headache is caused by something else, a symptom of another ailment. Second, all headaches—whether primary or secondary--are either Muscle-Contraction Headaches, Vascular Headaches, or "Some Other Type of Headache" (a Trusty Guide technical term). Here's what these mean:

  • Muscle-contraction (or tension) headaches. These are the most common headaches. Tension headaches are caused by persistent contraction of the muscles of the head, neck and face. The technical name is “muscle contraction” headache and they are far and away the most common form of headache. Experts estimate that about 70 to 90 percent of all headaches are tension headaches.
  • Vascular headaches (including migraines and hangovers). Vascular is simply another word for “blood vessel,” so a vascular headache is exactly what it sounds like: a headache related to the blood vessels in the head.
  • All other headaches. This is the catch-all categories for headaches that don’t fit easily into the first two categories. This would include secondary headaches caused by diseases and injuries, brain tumors or eye, ear, nose and throat problems.

Now let's cover some of the most common headaches: Tension Headaches.

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