17 Common Headache Types (With Illustrations)

Headaches are a common type of pain that may come about for countless reasons.  You can more effectively relieve a headache if you know its origin. For many people, this is the greatest mystery surrounding their headache but tracking symptoms can often lead to clues that help you recognize when a headache is about to come on and how to prevent it.  

There are three main classifications of headaches: primary, secondary and other. 

  • Primary headaches aren’t a symptom of another disorder. They are the primary health complaint-related disorder.
  • Secondary headaches are caused another condition including physical or mental trauma, stress, and psychological conditions.
  • Other headaches are headaches that don’t fit into other categories. Tend to be nerve pain located around the head.

Primary Headaches: 

Episodic Headaches Caused by Tension

This is likely the most common type of headache.  We all get headaches from tension and stress.  

Chronic Headaches

Describes a headache or pain that is persistent. 

When Muscles Contract Pains Are Felt in the Head

This type of headache is common with neck pain and head neck and shoulders tension. 

Migraines With an Aura

Strong intense headaches with visual blurriness, discoloration or similar type of aura. 

Migraine headaches without aura

This is an intense headache that does not produce a visual aura. 

Cluster Headache 

More Common in Men, this headache is felt typically on one side of the head and in clusters.  Individuals may also get a runny nose and feel the pain more intensely in one eye. 

paroxysmal hemicrania (a type of cluster headache)

This cluster headache may feel like boring into the head and is typically felt on one side.

Cough  headache

This headache appears while or after you cough. 

Stabbing Headache

Just as it sounds, this type of primary headache feels like stabbing in the head. 

Headache after sexual intercourse

This unfortunate experience of pain comes after sexual intercourse. 

Thunderclap Headache

It is an extremely painful headache that appears “out of nowhere” for seemingly no reason.  The pain can last for 5 minutes and longer. 

Hypnic Headaches

This type of headache is so-called as it wakes people from out of their sleep. 

Hemicrania continua 

This constant headache is felt strongly on either the left or the right-hand side. 

New daily persistent headache (NDPH)

A New Daily Persistent Headache is a primary headache disorder. Unknown cause of daily headaches.

Headache from Exertion

This is a common experience for when you have over-exerted yourself or exerted yourself heavily.  Dehydration may also be the cause. 

Secondary Headaches:

Disorders, structural problems in the face, infections, and other types of trauma (both physical and mental) can cause secondary headaches.  

Other Headaches:

Trigeminal neuralgia and other cranial nerve pains

This type of pain is described as a burning along the head and the neck and is not considered to be a primary or secondary headache.  The level of intensity does vary.