Types of Headaches

Only a small fraction of people who suffer from headaches receive the specialized treatment they need. The first step is identifying the problem.

In general, headaches fall into one of two categories: primary and secondary. A primary headache -- such as a migraine, cluster or tension-type headache -- is caused by a clinical condition and is not a symptom of another disorder. A secondary headache is caused by a medical condition like a brain disease or injury, sinus infection or dental problem.

Specialists at Swedish Pain Services have successfully treated patients of all ages who suffer from various types of headaches, including:


The typical migraine headache is one-sided, pulsating and causes moderate to severe pain. The average sufferer has up to several migraines a month, with each one usually lasting all day. You may experience nausea and sensitivity to light and/or noise.


Cluster headaches come back almost every day for as long as four to eight weeks. And attacks may occur more than once a day, with each headache lasting up to 45 minutes. Cluster headaches are almost always one-sided and affect the front or the side of your head.


Tension-type headaches can last from a few minutes to a few days. The pain you feel is often described as "pressing" or "tightening" and affects both sides of the head. Physical activity does not worsen this type of headache, and sensitivity to noise or light is rate.

At Swedish Pain Services, headache specialists review a patient's medical history, lifestyle and medications -- and, if necessary, schedule neurological tests that help identify a particular type of headache.