Fast facts about headaches

  • There are 150 different types of headaches22
  • The pain from headache is from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, head muscles and nearby nerves22
  • The most common types include tension headaches, sinus headaches, cluster headaches and migraines22
  • Migraines tend to run in families, with a 70 % risk of suffering from migraine if both your parents suffer from migraines22
  • Tension headaches are the most common headache among adults and teens22
  • Over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can help ease a tension headache23

There are many different types of headaches. Let's look at some of the more well-known types:23

Sinus headache

  • Happens when sinus cavities become infected and inflamed22
  • Deep constant pain behind cheekbones, forehead or bridge of nose22
  • Other symptoms include runny nose, fullness in ears, fever, swelling in face22
  • Treatments include antibiotics, decongestants, and analgesics24
  • Using heat pads on the inflamed area, saline nasal sprays, and vaporisers can also help24

Cluster headache

  • More common in men and comes in clusters lasting 2 weeks to 3 months22
  • Very severe and intense burning or piercing pain behind or around eye22
  • Eye on side of headache may be red and teary with a smaller pupil, eyelid may droop, nostril may run22
  • May be triggered by cigarette smoke, alcohol, bright lights, heat, exertion, certain medicines, high altitudes25
  • Treatment involves medicines to prevent and treat cluster headaches, as well as avoidance of triggers25

Tension headache

  • Most common headache among adults and teens22
  • Pain is dull and like a tight band squeezing the head23
  • Pain is all over, but worse in the scalp, temples, back of neck and shoulders23
  • Treatment involves over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, or muscle relaxants23
  • Other treatments that may be of benefit include relaxation, stress management, acupuncture, biofeedback, etc.23


  • Intense pounding, throbbing pain lasting from 4 hours to 3 days22
  • Accompanied by symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light, noise or smells, loss of appetite, upset or sore stomach22
  • May be triggered by sensitivities to certain types of food, alcohol, stress, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, skipping meals, and cigarette smoking26
  • Treatment involves resting in a dark, quiet room, placing a cool cloth on your head and drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration26
  • Over-the-counter analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be helpful when symptoms are mild, otherwise your doctor may prescribe medicines to stop a migraine26

Frequently asked questions