Expert Health Articles

Types of Headache Pain and Treatment Options

Loreen Morris, APRN-CNP

Certified Nurse Practitioner
Blanchard Valley Pain Management

Although cephalgia (headache) is considered one of the most prevalent health complaints, the substantial societal and individual burden associated with headaches is often overlooked.

In fact, it is estimated that headaches account for approximately 20 percent of lost workdays and cost an average of $100 million per year.

Knowing the different types of headaches and their treatment modalities can help manage and potentially prevent headaches.

Types of headache pain

Tension headaches - The most common type of headache, often described as a tight band around the head. These headaches typically result in mild to moderate pain and are often stress related.

Migraine headaches - This is a more severe headache lasting hours to days. Often times this type of headache is accompanied by other debilitating symptoms such as nausea and sensitivities to lights and sound. Triggers can include factors such as stress, dietary choices, hormonal changes and environmental exposures.

Cervicogenic headaches - These headaches are caused by underlying neck conditions with pain radiating into the head. The pain can be felt on one or both sides of the head and is often triggered by certain neck movements. Neck pain and stiffness often accompany this type of headache.

Cluster headaches - This rare condition occurs in “clusters” or cycles of headache pain. Typically described as very intense, sharp, stabbing, burning pain on one side of the head coming in waves of pain.

Treatment modalities

Lifestyle modifications - Ensuring quality sleep, managing stress, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding triggers can help prevent headaches.

Medications - Over-the-counter medications are often effective in managing mild to moderate headaches. For more severe headaches, prescription medications are often utilized. However, medications should be used under the direction of a healthcare provider and with caution. Medications can often cause other side effects or even rebound headaches.

Alternative therapies - Additional treatment modalities can include massage, acupuncture and injections such as Botox for migraine prevention. In addition, cervical (neck) injections may be utilized to help with cervicogenic-type headaches.


Headaches are a common health complaint caused by varying factors such as stress, environmental triggers, injury and more. The different types of headaches are associated with specific symptoms and causes which often overlap. Treatment modalities range from over-the-counter medication to injection therapies. The best treatment modality for specific headache types should be discussed with a qualified health professional.