• Symptoms of Headache

    Head pain is associated with all headaches, but different types of headache have specific symptoms.

    Tension Headache

    Tension headache symptoms usually start slowly and build. They include:
    • Constant, steady pain and pressure
    • Dull and achy pain
    • Pain usually felt on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
    • Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
    • Intensity that ranges from mild to severe and can vary during the day
    • Tightness in head and neck muscles
    • Difficulty concentrating
    Tension Headache: Areas of Pain
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Migraine Headache

    Migraines occur in phases that may include the following:
      A warning in the hours or days before the headache, in some cases, that may include:
      • A change in mood
      • Fatigue
      • Tense muscles
      • Yawning
      • Food craving
      An aura that lasts about 15-60 minutes and may produce the following sensations:
      • Flashing lights or spots
      • Temporary, partial loss of vision
      • Speech difficulties
      • Weakness in an arm or leg
      • Numbness or tingling first that begins in the hands and spreads to the arms and finally to the face and mouth, including the lips and tongue
      • Restlessness
      • Confusion
      Migraine pain that starts within an hour of the aura ending:
      • A headache, usually on one side but may involve both sides
      • Typically, the headache feels intense, throbbing, or pulsating and is more severe with movement
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Diarrhea
      • Sensitivity to light or sound
      • Sore or achy muscles
      • Lightheadedness
      A post-headache period that usually lasts for 4-72 hours and often goes away with sleep. After the headache, you may experience:
      • Trouble concentrating
      • Fatigue

    Cluster Headache

    Cluster headache involves stabbing, penetrating, burning, or explosive head pain that:
    • Is on one side of the head
    • Often starts around the eye and spreads to the same side of the head
    • Can occur daily or almost every day for 4-8 weeks
    • Can occur 1-8 times per day
    • Often occurs at about the same time each day
    • Increases in intensity over time
    • May start within 2 hours of going to sleep
    • Can awaken you from sleep
    • May last up to 3 hours
    • May be accompanied by restlessness and agitation
    Symptoms of a Cluster Headache
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    During the headache other symptoms may occur on the affected side, including:
    • Stuffy or runny nose
    • Redness or watering of the eye
    • Droopy eyelid
    • Constriction of the pupil of the eye
    • Facial swelling

    Sinus Headache

    Sinus headache symptoms include:
    • Pain and tenderness behind the forehead and cheeks and around the eyes
    • Pain in the back of the neck or upper teeth
    • Pain ranging from mild to severe
    • Pain that is more intense first thing in the morning
    • Pain that may worsen when you bend over
    • Headache occurring with other symptoms of sinusitis, including:
      • Nasal stuffiness and congestion
      • Thick nasal drainage
      • Post-nasal drip
      • Fever
      • Fatigue
      • Stuffy ears
      • Sore throat
      • Cough
      • Puffiness around the eyes
    Sinus Headache: Areas of Pain
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Cluster headache. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116292/Cluster-headache. Updated February 16, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Friedman DI. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007;11(1):62-68.

    Headache. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114773/Headache. Updated May 22, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/headache-faq. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Migraine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114718/Migraine-in-adults. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Headache-Information-Page. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Tension-type headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114522/Tension-type-headache. Updated February 8, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
    • Review Date: 10/2017
    • Update Date: 12/20/2014
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