Headache Symptoms - Causes & Treatment

Pressure in your temples. A constant thumping inside your forehead. A dull pain that seems to envelop your whole head. A headache can have any of these characteristics. It can ruin your day or keep you up all night. Sometimes, it feels like it will never go away.

The first thing your primary care doctor or urgent care provider will do is try and determine which type of headache you have. Some common types of headaches:

  • Tension headaches (or tension-type) headaches are the most prevalent and can feel like something squeezing the head
  • Migraine headaches usually involve intense throbbing or a "pulsing" in one area. They often cause nausea, vomiting and severe sensitivity to sound and/or light. These headaches can cause extreme pain for hours to days and sometimes follow other warning symptoms like blind spots, tingling in the arms or legs or flashes of light.
  • Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headaches and occur in repeated (cyclical, cluster) patterns. These headaches sometime bring extreme pain to one side of your head or near one eye.

Headache Diagnosis & Treatment

Most headaches can be diagnosed by a physical exam and review of your medical history. Sometimes, your primary care doctor or urgent care provider will order imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI or a neurological test such as an EEG (electroencephalogram), a test that evaluates the brain’s electrical activity.

Headache treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Aspirin
  • Certain types of steroids
  • Decongestants (for sinus headaches)
  • Drugs known as “triptans” used to treat migraine headaches
  • Non-narcotic medicines
  • Oxygen
  • Pain relievers

They may also recommend lifestyle changes that reduces stress and tension and emphasize regular physical activity and exercise. You may also be instructed to avoid things that can cause a headache such as alcohol, caffeine, specific foods and noise.