Chronic headaches affect an estimated 45 million Americans. Although the vast majority of headaches are benign, some can be quite debilitating, seriously degrading a person's quality of life. A headache, or cephalgia in med-speak, basically refers to a pain in the head area. This can include the neck and upper back. Headaches have a variety of causes including tension, dehydrations, eye strain and more. In some instances, headaches can be a precursor to other, more serious conditions such as brain tumors, meningitis, aneurysms and more.
Treatments for headaches can range from over-the-counter remedies like aspirin to prescription medications, holistic, naturopathic and home-based remedies. There are even surgical intervention in rare instances.
The International Headache Society classifies nearly 130 different types of headaches and recognizes two major headache disorder categories: primary and secondary.
Primary Headache Disorders
With a primary headache disorder, the headache is the primary symptom of the physiological, or body disorder. No consistent causes can be found for these headaches. The brain is disturbed, as is its relationship with the rest of the body. These disturbances can be inherited or acquired. Examples of Primary Headache Disorders include:
- Migraine headache
- Tension-type headache
- Cluster headache
- "Ordinary" headache (likely a mild form of migraine or tension headache)
Secondary Headache Disorders. These headaches are usually a symptom of another disorder. There can be more than 300 causes of secondary headaches. Common secondary headaches include:
- Post-traumatic headache (result of an injury or surgery)
- Reactive headache (reaction to allergens, for example)
- Sinus headaches
- Rebound headache (from over-use of medications)