A headache refers to a pain that occurs in the head. The pain may be experienced in the forehead, temples, back of the neck or towards the back of the head. Headaches are extremely common and most people experience a headache at some point in their lives. They can be caused by various factors. Headaches can be classified into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary headaches do not occur because of any underlying condition. These include tension headaches and migraine headaches. Secondary headaches occur due to conditions such as meningitis, brain tumors and stroke. Withdrawal from caffeine can also lead to a secondary headache. In some cases a headache may even be indicative of a heart attack.

Headache Picture

Symptoms of Headaches

The symptoms of a headache depend on the type. Signs and symptoms of the various types of headaches are as follows;

  • Migraine Headache: A migraine headache causes pain in one or both sides of the head. Other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, blurry vision and light sensitivity may also be experienced. Migraine headaches are quite common especially in women.
  • Sinus Headache: This type of headache often leads to a sensation of pressure in the forehead. The area around the eyes and cheeks may also become painful. Pain and pressure on the nose bridge is also known to occur during a sinus headache. Sinus headaches are accompanied by nasal congestion and nasal discharge. The symptoms can interfere with daily work.
  • Hormone Headache: These headaches mostly occur in women because of the hormonal changes they experience. Fluctuations in the levels of estrogen and progesterone can trigger such headaches. Hormone headaches commonly occur in pregnant women or those who use oral contraceptives. The headache leads to pain on one side of the head. Throbbing, nausea, vomiting and hypersensitivity to light may also occur. Pregnant women often become overly sensitive also to smells and sounds.
  • Cluster Headache: This can lead to severe pain in the head and discomfort around the eyes. Nasal congestion may also occur. Cluster headaches are known to occur repeatedly after short periods of time. The symptoms may last for a few minutes or may persist for a few hours.
  • Tension Headache: The main symptom of a tension headache is a sensation of tightness in the head. The pain may first occur in the back of the head and upper portion of the neck. There is also likely to be considerable discomfort in the area above the eyebrows. The pain may occur on both sides of the head. Nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity are also likely to be experienced.

Causes of Headaches

Primary headaches are not caused by an underlying disease while secondary headaches may occur due to various conditions such as injury, tumors or infections.
The main causes of primary headaches include:

  • Migraine: Migraines may occur when there is enlargement of a blood vessel. This also triggers the release of certain chemicals. When a migraine headache occurs, the temporal artery, which is located beneath the temples, enlarges. This artery is present outside the skull. This enlargement causes the release of chemicals and leads to pain, inflammation and further swelling of the artery. The sympathetic nervous system reacts by triggering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. Food absorption also slows down and there is reduced blood circulation resulting in coldness in the limbs and increased sensitivity to light.
  • Tension: These headaches occur due to muscle strain in the neck and head. Emotional stress can also be a trigger for a tension headache. Such headaches lead to a steady ache in the sides of the head. Tension headaches may also occur due to eye strain.
  • Cluster: These headaches recur over periods of time. They are mostly centered towards one side of the head. The area around the eye is most affected. The exact causes for cluster headaches are not clearly understood. Changes in blood circulation could be involved in the occurrence of such headaches.
  • Increased blood flow: Caffeine decreases the blood flow in the brain. Regular coffee drinkers who suddenly discontinue their caffeine intake may experience headaches because the blood flow in the brain increases.

Secondary headaches may be caused by the following factors:

  • Viral infections: Headaches commonly occur during viral infections such as the flu and common cold. The headaches cease once the infection subsides.
  • Injury: Injuries to the head or neck can also result in headaches.
  • Brain infection
  • Tumors
  • Stroke

Remedies for Headaches

Headaches can be treated with over-the-counter medications. In case you suffer from persistent or recurring headaches, it would be best to consult a doctor, as this could be indicative of a more serious underlying condition. There are several natural remedies for headaches, but you should keep in mind that most natural methods of treatment are unreliable and not backed by scientific research. While some of these remedies could help, others may actually aggravate the condition. Here are some of the most common natural cures for headaches:

  • Herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are known to help in curing headaches. The herb, feverfew and nutrients such as riboflavin and magnesium are especially popular as headache remedies.
  • Biofeedback is a process in which biological functions such as blood circulation, blood pressure and heartbeat are regulated. It is known to help in relieving tension headaches.
  • One of the best ways to cure a headache naturally is to engage in relaxation therapy. You can do this in various ways such as deep breathing and meditation. These are helpful when done regularly.
  • Hypnosis is another alternative treatment for chronic headaches. It enables the therapist to get a glimpse into the individual’s subconscious mind and identify anxieties or other triggers of stress and tension. However hypnosis is influenced by the individual’s responsiveness to the process.
  • In the practice of acupuncture, thin needles are used to stimulate various points on the body. This in turn stimulates the nervous system and enables the release of hormones and chemicals which improve mood and diminish the sensation of pain. Acupuncture is known to be helpful in treating migraine and tension headaches.
  • Massage therapy can also be used to relieve headaches as it helps to relax the head, neck, shoulders and back muscles.
  • Aromatherapy makes use of different essential oils. Oils such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint and rosemary induce a sense of relaxation and thus help to reduce pain and discomfort.
  • A common cause of headaches which is often ignored is dehydration. Drinking a tall glass of cool water will help to relieve pain.

You can also alleviate a headache by taking a warm shower. Allow the water to stream down the neck and shoulders. This helps to relax the muscles and enhances blood flow. You can also make use of aromatherapy soaps or body washes. You can even add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to bath water and soak in it for some time.

  • Cold packs are one of the best home remedies for headaches. Place the pack over the affected area and keep it there for about ten minutes. This will help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. You can use an ice pack or a towel soaked in cold water.
  • In many cases a headache occurs when your body is exhausted. When this happens, the best to obtain relief is to rest for a while, lie down and close your eyes for some time.
  • Calcium supplements help to improve blood flow and alleviate pain by relaxing the muscles. Your doctor may prescribe calcium and magnesium supplements as these are more effective in treating headaches.
  • Exercise helps to improve blood circulation and ensures a better supply of oxygen to the body. Doing simple exercises before and after a headache is beneficial. In order to prevent headaches from occurring, make it a point to exercise regularly.

Diet for Headaches

Certain foods may trigger a headache. Different foods produce different reactions in people. Therefore it is a good idea to pay close attention to your diet. Write down the foods you consume on a daily basis. Foods that seem to be causing adverse reactions in the body should be removed from the diet. The following foods are common headache triggers. It is best to avoid eating these foods if you feel they are triggering headaches.

  • Cheese
  • Wine
  • Caffeine
  • Cold cuts

Headaches may also occur when you skip your meals. This is due to the drop in blood sugar levels. The best way to prevent such headaches is to eat your meals on time. You can even divide your meals into smaller portions and eat them frequently during the day. This will keep your metabolism steady and will also regulate your blood glucose levels. It is also important to eat balanced, healthy meals so that you don’t suffer from any nutritional deficiencies.

Suggestion for Headaches

Tension headaches which occur due to muscle strain can be treated through chiropractic manipulation. Studies have shown that manipulating the spine may even be beneficial in the long term and has fewer side effects than medication. This type of therapy may be helpful for those involved in jobs that require repetitive movements or sitting in one position for long periods of time.


  1. Collin S Karmody, Alternative therapies in the management of headache and facial pain, Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America, Volume 36, Issue 6, December 2003, Pages 1221-1230, ISSN 0030-6665, 10.1016/S0030-6665(03)00119-1.

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16 Headaches remedies suggested by our users
Cayenne and Feverfew
suggested by cynthia on Thursday, January 15, 2009

Try taking Cayenne and Feverfew everyday. This will prevent headaches.

Instant Headache Cure
suggested by Laura on Thursday, May 29, 2008

Try drinking four 8 oz glasses of water. (4 glasses - it doesn't have to be exact) The most common cause of headache is dehydration. A headache is your body's way (a warning sign if you will) of letting you know that there is something wrong with you...you’re dehydrated. If you are not sure weather you are dehydrated or not, just have a look at the colour of your urine next time you have to go. If it is a dark yellowish color that is a good indicator of dehydration. This will cleanse your body as well and the best way to prevent problems with your kidneys and bladder. The more these systems are used (exercised) the better they will work. Most people don't drink enough water. 4-6 8oz glasses of water every day. A word of caution some medications do cause urine to become a darker colour. There is one side effect from drinking too much water-having to visit the bathroom more often. Oh well good way to catch up on some of your reading. This will provide you instant relief. No need to wait for the medication to work anymore. Hard to believe such a simple solution but it works!

peppermint cures headache
suggested by tammy on Friday, April 4, 2008

10 drops of essential peppermint oil 10 drops of wintergreen alcohol or if need more equal parts of each. It works miracles.......try it.

warm compress
suggested by jenn on Monday, March 10, 2008

Take a wash cloth and get it wet with warm water and put it on your head wherever the pain is. This also works with a rice bag, corn bag etc.. but with those you heat them up in the microwave.

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