What is happening to me when I have headaches?


  • are common and real disorders
  • may be frequent, intense, and disabling
  • can involve many different symptoms other than head pain, such as nausea, vomiting, or a sensitivity to light or sound
  • require diagnosis and treatment by a doctor
  • can be managed successfully most of the time

Here is what some people have said about having headaches.


"I work on the areas that cause my headaches and try to avoid getting them. I get enough sleep, avoid foods that I'm allergic to, and avoid alcohol." Susan

"I have migraines without aura, so I don't have a warning sign. The pain starts very dull on one side of my head and then escalates to a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. I usually have to take my medication and sleep, sometimes for 2 days." Carmel

"I get cluster headaches. I can tell when they are coming. The pain starts in my neck, moves into the back of my head, and then swoops down into my right eye. It usually takes a few days before I get the cluster." Patrick

"I get tension headaches which feel like a pressing pain between my eyes and forehead. The pain stays there till I can take my medication." James

"I get classical migraines. My warning signs can be seeing a colored light, or feeling a sharp pain. I can tell when the pain is going to go up to a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10." Hazel

A chronic headache disorder can disrupt your daily life and interfere with your social life and work. But you don't have to suffer with headaches. Medical treatment can help. In addition, you can take some steps on your own to reduce the number and severity of your headaches.

Your headaches could be any of several types. You could also have more than one type. The treatment you need and the steps you take to prevent headaches depend on the type or types of headaches you have. So knowing the type is important. Types include:

  • migraine, which can be hormonally related
  • tension-type, which can be chronic or episodic
  • cluster
  • rebound

For more information about common headache types, see What are the different types of headaches?

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