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Head pain is associated with all headaches, but different types of headache have specific symptoms.

Tension Headache

Tension headache symptoms usually start slowly and build. They include:

  • Constant, steady pain and pressure
  • Dull and achy pain
  • Pain usually felt on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
  • Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
  • Intensity that ranges from mild to severe and can vary during the day
  • Tightness in head and neck muscles
  • Difficulty concentrating

Tension Headache: Areas of Pain


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Migraine Headache

Migraines occur in phases that may include the following:

  • A warning in the hours or days before the headache, in some cases, that may include:
    • A change in mood
    • Fatigue
    • Tense muscles
    • Yawning
    • Food craving
  • An aura that lasts about 15-60 minutes and may produce the following sensations:
    • Flashing lights or spots
    • Temporary, partial loss of vision
    • Speech difficulties
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Numbness or tingling first that begins in the hands and spreads to the arms and finally to the face and mouth, including the lips and tongue
    • Restlessness
    • Confusion
  • Migraine pain that starts within an hour of the aura ending:
    • A headache, usually on one side but may involve both sides
    • Typically, the headache feels intense, throbbing, or pulsating and is more severe with movement
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Sensitivity to light or sound
    • Sore or achy muscles
    • Lightheadedness
  • A post-headache period that usually lasts for 4-72 hours and often goes away with sleep. After the headache, you may experience:
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Fatigue
Cluster Headache

Cluster headache involves stabbing, penetrating, burning, or explosive head pain that:

  • Is on one side of the head
  • Often starts around the eye and spreads to the same side of the head
  • Can occur daily or almost every day for 4-8 weeks
  • Can occur 1-8 times per day
  • Often occurs at about the same time each day
  • Increases in intensity over time
  • May start within two hours of going to sleep
  • Can awaken you from sleep
  • May last up to three hours
  • May be accompanied by restlessness and agitation

Symptoms of a Cluster Headache


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During the headache other symptoms may occur on the affected side, including:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Redness or watering of the eye
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Constriction of the pupil of the eye
  • Facial swelling
Sinus Headache

Sinus headache symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness behind the forehead and cheeks and around the eyes
  • Pain in the back of the neck or upper teeth
  • Pain ranging from mild to severe
  • Pain that is more intense first thing in the morning
  • Pain that may worsen when you bend over
  • Headache occurring with other symptoms of sinusitis, including:
    • Nasal stuffiness and congestion
    • Thick nasal drainage
    • Post-nasal drip
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Stuffy ears
    • Sore throat
    • Cough
    • Puffiness around the eyes

Sinus Headache: Areas of Pain


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References

Friedman DI. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007;11(1):62-68.

Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools_for_Sufferers/Headache_-_Frequently_Asked_Questions. Accessed November 18, 2013.

NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm. Updated November 8, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.



Last reviewed November 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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