Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are often caused by stress and emotional strain. Most adults have tension headaches from time to time, and everyone may feel pain in different areas.
Tension Headache Symptoms and Treatments
Tension headaches can feel like a band around your head, causing mild to moderate pain.
Tension headaches can often be treated effectively with over-the-counter pain relievers, including acetaminophen or aspirin. Your doctor may prescribe other medication for chronic tension headaches. Other treatment options include exercise and relaxation techniques.
Cluster headaches are recurring headaches that can occur multiple times a day and last from 15 minutes to three hours. A “cycle” of attacks can continue from six to 12 weeks.
Cluster Headache Symptoms and Treatments
Cluster headaches appear suddenly and cause severe, debilitating pain in or around one eye, along with a watery eye and nasal congestion on the affected side of the head. Unlike other types of headaches, cluster headaches get worse when lying down.
Over-the-counter pain medicines usually don’t work for cluster headaches. However, triptans, which are commonly used to treat migraines, are an effective treatment for an acute cluster headache.
Preventive therapies may be used at the onset of the cluster episode. These include calcium channel blockers and corticosteroids.
Dealing with repeated cluster headaches can lead to stress and depression, which can continue the headache cycle. Finding ways to cope with stress (such as with regular exercise and relaxation techniques) and improve depression may reduce the severity or frequency of your cluster headaches.
Migraine headaches can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. Warning symptoms, known as aura, may occur before or with a headache. These can include:
Migraine Symptoms and Treatments
Migraine headaches tend to last for several hours or more and can have many different triggers. Migraines cause moderate to severe pain that can interfere with routine activities. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
There is no cure for migraines, but medicines and other treatments may help stop symptoms and prevent future attacks. Effective medications include:
For chronic migraine pain, alternative therapies may be helpful. These include:
The pain management physicians specializing in headaches at the Weill Cornell Medicine Division of Pain Management are proud to partner with the Weill Cornell Medicine Headache Program — a global leader in diagnosing and treating headache and migraine pain. Together, we offer:
Weill Cornell Medicine also offers clinical trials, giving patients access to treatments that may not be widely available. Learn more about Pain Management's current clinical trials.
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