Headaches are one among the most common health issue that most people experience at some time of their lives. The disease occurs regardless of age, race, and gender. WHO reports, almost half of all adult’s experience headaches in any year.

A headache symbolizes a sign of stress or emotional distress. It can happen as a result of any underlying medical condition such as migraine, high blood pressure, anxiety or depression. People with prolonged migraine headaches get affected with their regular activities. 

There are different types of headaches, and the causes and symptoms can vary from person to person. Although most of the symptoms are short-lived, identifying the exact cause can treat the headache.

What are the Causes of Headache?

Primary headaches

These headaches are a stand-alone illness which is just caused due to overactivity or problems related to the head. This includes blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of the neck and head. The list of primary headaches includes migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches. 

Secondary headaches

These headaches happen due to the result of other medical conditions. These include,

  • Brain tumor
  • Alcohol-induced hangover
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding in or around the brain
  • "Brain freeze," or ice-cream headaches
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Dehydration
  • Glaucoma
  • Teeth-grinding at night
  • Influenza
  • Excess usage of pain medications, this condition is called rebound headaches.  
  • Panic attacks
  • Stroke

As headaches occur as a symptom of any serious disorder, it is important to identify the exact underlying cause and treat accordingly. If a headache is more powerful and fails to resolve even after medicine intake medical advice should be taken.

What are the different types of headaches?

1. Migraines

Migraines fall under the category of primary headaches and are often characterized by visual disturbances. The symptom includes intense throbbing pain on just one side of the head. The individual also experiences sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. Nausea and vomiting can be an associated symptom. 

Before the onset of migraine, most of the individual’s experience visual and sensory irritations. This can last up to 60minutes. They include,

  • Partial loss of vision
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritated feeling
  • Difficulty in speaking

Migraines tend to happen recurrently, and each attack of headaches may last up to 3 days. For some people, it is a life-long condition. Although migraine occurs in all age groups and both the genders, it is more likely to develop in females. Attack frequency can vary from person to person may occur from several times to once a year. 

The exact causes of migraine are not fully understood. It may run in families. Migraines can also be happening as with few pre-existing conditions such as depression and epilepsy.  Also, a few other conditions that trigger the existence of migraine include:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Sleep disruption
  • Hormonal changes
  • Skipped meals
  • Dehydration
  • Some foods and medications
  • Bright lights and loud noise

2. Tension headaches

Tension headache is one of the commonest headaches which people, might face occasionally. Dull and constant pain will be felt on both sides of the head. Other signs of a tension headache include:

  • Tenderness in the face, head, neck, and shoulders
  • A feeling of pressure behind the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Tension headaches last for 30minutes to few hours. Till date, the cause of tension headaches is unclear. But factors like stress, anxiety, and depression are common triggers. Other potential causes are:

  • Dehydration
  • Loud noise
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor sleep
  • Bad posture
  • Skipped meals
  • Eye strain

Lifestyle changes like getting enough sleep, regular exercise, managing anxiety, and some home remedies can prevent tension headaches.

3. Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are severe and happen recurrently. The headache causes more pain and a burning sensation behind the eyes.  The occurrence rate is more in men compared to women

Other symptoms can include:

  • Watery eye
  • Swollen eyelid
  • Blocked or a runny nose
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Restlessness or irritation
Cluster headaches occur suddenly without any warning. The attack lasts for 15minutes to 3hours. The headache may persist from weeks to months. The real cause of cluster headaches is unclear but they are more common in smokers.

4. Exertional headaches
Exertional headaches happen due to strenuous physical exercise. This may happen due to:

  • Excess running
  • Jumping
  • Weight lifting
  • Sexual intercourse

These headaches occur for very less time but can sometimes last up to 3 days. Throbbing pain will be felt throughout the head and are most common in those with a family history of migraine.

5. Hypnic headaches

A hypnic headache occurs in the upper age group. They are commonly seen in the age of 50s. They are called as alarm clock headaches, because they wake up the people during night due to excess pain. The common symptom is mild-to-moderate throbbing pain that is usually felt on both the sides of head. It can also be associated with nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Even though the cause of hypnic headache is not found, people may experience several attacks each week.

Secondary headaches
A secondary headache happens as a result of any medical condition.
1. Medication-overuse headaches
Due to long and frequent usage of medications or supplements headaches can occur. Medicines like opioids, acetaminophen, sumatriptan, NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be added in the list. Headache disappears in 10days.
Additional symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting
Increased heart rate
Sleep disturbance
Restlessness, anxiety, and nervousness
Most people revert to their original headache pattern within 2 months. After this, it should be safe to start retaking pain relief medication.
2. Sinus headaches
Swelling in the sinuses leads to sinus headaches or sinusitis. Sinusitis may be a result of infection or allergy. Throbbing ache around eyes, cheeks and foreheads are the most common symptoms. In worse cases, the pain may spread to teeth and jaws. Thick green or yellow nasal discharge is also accompanied by sinus headaches. 
Other symptoms may include, nasal blockage, heaviness in the head, fever, nausea etc.
3. Caffeine-related headaches
Heavy consumption of caffeine, more than 400 milligrams can result in headache. In individuals, who consume more than 200mg of caffeine over 2 weeks, the withdrawal may cause migraine like headaches. The symptoms associated with this headache are:
Difficulty concentrating
Poor mood or irritability
The effect may vary from person to person. Limiting caffeine consumption can help to resolve the problem. 
4. Head-injury headaches
Any head injury can lead to headaches. They either develop immediately or soon after. Minor injuries to head and neck are common and nothing to worry. 
Anyone who experiences persistent or worsening headaches should visit a doctor. In case of emergencies, ambulance should be called. Any symptoms mentioned below also requires immediate medical care. They are:
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Vision or hearing problems

Post-traumatic headaches develop after months of original head injury, which is usually difficult to diagnose. They can show up daily or may persist for a long period of time

5. Menstrual headaches

Headaches occur often in relation to changes in hormone levels. In most of the women, migraine is associated with periods due to natural variations in estrogen levels. They may develop in the days just before or during menstrual flow or sometimes during the ovulation. Symptoms are similar to migraine but can last longer and can be more debilitating.

The headaches related with hormone can also be due to,

  • Oral contraceptives
  • The menopause
  • Pregnancy
6. Hangover headaches
Consuming excess amount of alcohol can lead to throbbing headaches the next day or even later. These can be felt on both sides of the head and can become worse by movement. Hangover headaches are usually associated with nausea and sensitivity to light.  
Drinking plenty of water can relieve hangovers caused due to alcohol. Usually, the symptoms of hangovers tend to subside within 72 hours.

Symptoms of headache 

The common symptoms associated with headaches include,

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain felt in the eyes when looking into bright lights (photophobia)
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Tenderness of the scalp
  • Tightness sensation in the head
  • Irritability 
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paleness 
  • Fever(rare)
  • Fatigue

Home Remedies For Headache - Natural Ayurvedic Treatment for Headache

1. Peppermint Oil Application 

Apply 3drops of peppermint oil over the temples and corners of your forehead. Alternatively, the application of coconut oil can also be chosen for application. This can be done whenever there is an occurrence of headaches.

While there aren’t many studies to confirm the efficacy of peppermint oil, researches have provided enough evidence that the oil helps to control blood flow in the body and helps to open up the sinuses for better oxygen flow. Many reports have come across showing relief in migraine and other types of headaches.
2. Ginger 

Fresh ginger is collected and cleaned. 1-2 inches of sliced ginger should be boiled in a cup of hot water and allowed to cool down for a while. Drink the warm tea. This can be taken twice daily.
Administration of ginger helps in reducing the pain of migraine headaches.
3. Application of Rasanadi choorna paste over the forehead
Rasnadi choorna should be mixed with plain water and need to be made to a fine paste. This paste should be applied over the forehead and allow it to dry. 
Rasnadi choorna is a widely available herbal powder which is a combination of more than 10 Ayurveda drugs. The main ingredient being Rasna is an effective analgesic which alleviates the severity of persistent headaches. They also have a significant anti-inflammatory property which helps to treat recurrent sinusitis and allergic rhinitis.
From time unknown, it’s a conventional custom of regular application of Rasnadi choorna in the scalp as a preventive measure against the common cold, headache, fever, and upper respiratory tract infections.
4. Massage 

Massage therapy has been found to be very beneficial for headaches. Massage the scalp and forehead with chandanadi taila, ksheerabala taila, Eucalyptus oil, etc. Massage to the neck, spinal, and upper thoracic regions can provide great relief in pain associated with migraines.
Massage helps to increase the blood flow in these regions and thereby provides good relief in headache.
5. Application of an Ice pack or Cold Compress 
Place an ice pack or cold compress over the sides of your head that are aching. Press or hold it there for 30minutes. This can be repeated 2times per day.
The compress helps to reduce the inflammation, relives the pain and helps to better the migraine.