Why Does My Head Hurt? Primary Headache Disorders

If your doctor eliminates the possibility of a disease or condition being responsible for your head pain, you may be left wondering what that means. What are some of the possibilities?

Headache disorders that are not caused by another disease or condition are called primary headache disorders. According to the International Headache Society the most common of these include migraines, tension-type headache and cluster headaches.

Migraine typically involves one-sided head pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound and smell, neck pain and dizziness. But symptoms can vary widely from person to person. For a more detailed description of migraine check out this post: What is Migraine? Migraine can be episodic or chronic.

Tension-type headache is thought to be related to stress and muscular problems. These headaches can come on in individual attacks, similar to migraine, or take on a chronic form, lasting for an indefinite length of time with no relief.

Cluster headaches are frequently occurring, incredibly painful attacks that last for a short duration. Cluster headache is rare, but fairly easy to spot when you review the pattern of the person’s attacks.

In addition, other primary headache disorders include primary cough headache, primary exertional headache, primary headache associated with sexual activity, hypnic headache, primary thunderclap headache, hemicrania continua and new daily persistent headache. New daily persistent headache is diagnosed when the patient experiences pain on both sides of the head every day and does not exhibit more than one of the symptoms typically associated with migraine, such as nausea or sensitivity to light or sound. If you’ve read All in My Head or Chocolate & Vicodin those authors were dealing with new daily persistent headache.

This article is meant to just scratch the surface of the possibilities for people who are in the process of being diagnosed. All of these disorders can vary from person to person and diagnosis is often more an art than a science.

If you suspect you have a primary headache disorder you should seek out the care of a headache disorders specialist so you can be properly diagnosed and treated.

1. Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. “The International Classification of Headache Disorders 2nd Edition.” Cephalalgia 2004;24:8-160. 2. “Headache disorders,” World Health Organization, last modified March 2004, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs277/en/.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.