Tension headaches are generally described as feeling like a dull, tight pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck. They can be episodic (occurring fewer than 15 days per month) or chronic (occurring more than 15 days per month). Typically, tension headaches begin gradually and can last less than an hour or up to several days, especially if they are chronic kind. While specific triggers aren’t well understood, stress seems to be the most significant commonality, particularly if it is a persistent part of your day.
Cluster headaches are usually very severe and are characterized by affecting one side of the head and occurring in clusters – sometimes as many as 8 per day. The pain is described as a burning, “hot poker” sensation, usually behind the eye. Additionally, you may experience symptoms on the affected side like a teary eye, runny or stuffy nostril, and flushing or sweating on the face. In some cases, cluster headaches may trigger symptoms like a constricted pupil or drooping eyelid on the affected side.
Migraines are a recurring kind of headache, ordinarily affecting one side of the head and characterized by their severity. They often have unique symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, weakness, and visual anomalies like arcs of light. These symptoms are usually exacerbated by movement, and many find some relief by laying in a dark, quiet room until the migraine subsides. Afterward, during a period called the “postdrome,” you may feel exhausted, weak, and even confused for up to a day.
Migraines are known to have several triggers, and vary widely from one person to another. These triggers are not limited to, but may include:
- Hormonal changes
- Bright/flashing lights
- Sudden weather changes
- Lack of sleep or too much sleep
- Loud noises and strong smells
- Medication or migraine medication overuse
- Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
- Fermented, pickled, or aged foods