According to the American Headache Society, nearly 90% of self-diagnosed “sinus headaches” are actually migraines. And, there’s a difference between episodic and chronic migraine. Why does that matter? Treatments vary depending on the cause of your head pain. So if you’re misdiagnosing, you could be suffering needlessly – or even making your headaches worse! To find out exactly what’s ailing you, read on.
Tension-Type: The most common, tension-type headaches usually cause only mild to moderate pain. The discomfort typically begins in the forehead, temples or the back of your head or neck. It creates a band-like sensation around your head, or a feeling of pressure in head and neck muscles. The headaches often occur after feeling stressed, anxious, fatigued or angry.
Sinus: Sinus headaches typically cause a throbbing pain and feeling of pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead. The pain will usually worsen if you bend or lie down. They develop when your sinuses become swollen, usually due to allergies or a sinus infection. Your sinuses will often be blocked, so you may not be able to breathe well through your nose, and your sense of taste or smell may be diminished. If the cause is an infection, you’ll likely have a low fever, and may have green or yellow nasal discharge, a sore throat, soreness in your jaw or teeth, a cough, and/or fatigue.
Rebound: Also called “medication overuse headache,” it occurs if you take acute migraine meds too often (twice a week or more for several weeks) or use more than the recommended dosage. Once the medication wears off, the headache comes back. You may also experience neck pain, irritability, and depression.
Cluster: Cluster headaches come in groups, and typically strike without warning. The head pain, which is severe, often occurs on only one side of the head, and may cause the eye to tear and turn bloodshot, and your nose to run on the same side. They often begin in the middle of the night and may last for weeks or months. Their cause is not completely known, but researchers believe they may be the result of a chemical reaction in the brain.
Migraine or Chronic Migraine?
Migraine often begins as a dull ache that develops into a throbbing and pulsating pain, often near the temples, as well as the front or back of one or both sides of the head. The pain is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and/or sensitivity to light and noise. Some may see “aura” before the headache strikes.
With chronic migraine, you can feel as though you’re never free from your headaches. Medications may help ease symptoms but never wipe them out completely. You may be diagnosed with chronic migraine if you have had 15 or more headache days a month, each episode lasting four hours or more, for three months.
Guide to Living Well with Migraine Headaches
National Headache Foundation