Headache can be defined as an intense pain arising from the head, scalp, or upper neck of the body, usually originating from the nerves, tissues, and structures that surround the brain or the skull. A headache can cause severe inflammation in the periosteum, tissues sheathing the muscles, bones, that in turn wrap the sinuses, skull, eyes, and ears, as well as thin tissues that cover the surface of the brain and spinal cord (meninges), veins, arteries, and nerves. The inflamed portion may give out pain which can be dull, intense, throbbing, sharp, constant, intermittent, or mild. Also Read: 6 Simple Ways To Make Your Headache Subside

Since this discomfort troubles millions of people all over the world, the International Headache Society released its latest classification system for headache in the year 2013. The classification system is extremely beneficial for healthcare providers to diagnose the different types of headaches at ease and go for the specific treatment at the earliest. Also Read: Five Common Types Of Headaches: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


Depending upon the source of pain, the guidelines according to the International Headache Society have classified headaches into 3 main categories which include:

  • Primary headaches
  • Secondary headaches
  • Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches


Headaches can be associated with the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the eyes when looking into bright lights (i.e. Photophobia)
  • Tenderness of the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Tightness sensation in the head
  • Stroke

Well, most of us are familiar with the causative factors leading to primary headaches which include, Migraine Headaches, Tension Headaches, and Cluster Headaches and Cranial Nerve Headaches as well. Let this article acquaint you of the underlying causes of secondary headaches.

What Are Secondary Headaches?

It is a type of headache where the pain in the head or neck area occurs due to inflammation of the pain-sensitive nerves due to some other health anomaly. Apart from the common Sinus and Hormonal Headaches, the lesser common secondary headaches include:

Caffeine Headache:

As much as one likes having a cup of coffee in the morning, too much of it can affect blood flow to the brain causing a sudden headache. Headache can also occur when a person tries to quit caffeine. When a person gets dependent on coffee, i.e. exposing your brain to a certain amount of caffeine daily, sudden withdrawal may cause changes in the brain chemistry, triggering a headache.

Post-Concussion Headache:

Sudden trauma or accident can lead to a concussion in the brain or head causing a sharp aching pain in the head. It usually feels like a migraine headache and lasts for up to 6 to 13 months. It is extremely necessary to consult a doctor in case the person meets with a sudden accident. The doctor usually does proper medical tests and suggests pain-relieving medications to subside the headache.

Hypertension Headache:

Elevated blood pressure often causes headaches and maybe a warning sign of an emergency. This kind of headache often occurs on both side of the head and cause symptoms such as numbness or tingling, vision problem, chest pain, nosebleeds, or shortness of breath. Rush to the doctor the moment you notice any given signs to get appropriate treatment at the earliest.

Rebound Headaches:

Also known as medication-overuse headaches, this type of head pain generally arises due to over-dependency on headache medications. Although the pain may subside on the consumption of medications it continues as soon as the effect wears off. Characteristic symptoms include restlessness, neck pain, nasal congestion, and poor sleep. 

Thunderclap Headaches:

These are sudden headaches which are quite true to its name, i.e. striking like a thunder. This headache though lasts for a few over 5 minutes are extremely painful in nature. The common symptoms include sudden piercing pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures and mild fever. In most cases a thunderclap headache usually indicates an underlying life-threatening condition like aneurysm, meningitis, blood clot or bleeding in the brain, or pituitary apoplexy. It is strictly suggested to consult a doctor to get diagnosed with other health conditions to start the treatment of the underlying condition at the earliest.

Ice-cream Headaches:

Also termed as “Brain Freeze”, these are brief, stabbing headaches that usually happens when one eats, drinks or inhales something extremely cold. The pain peaks in about 20-30 seconds and usually lasts for longer than 5 minutes. These headaches though stabbing while in effect, generally goes away on its own.

External Compression Headaches:

In certain cases, throbbing pain may also exude due to wearing something tight around the head. This often occurs when people wear helmets, goggles, head bands or other headgears during sports activities. It is characterised by a moderate constant pain at the area where the head gear rests. To get relief from the pain, you can just remove the head band that’s causing the pressure and relax.

Exercise Headaches:

A common type of secondary headache usually occurs when a person does strenuous exercise or indulges in activities like running, playing tennis, swimming, rowing, and weightlifting. These headaches are characterised by throbbing sensation on the head, double vision, nausea, vomiting, neck rigidity and loss of consciousness. The doctor usually prescribes anti-inflammatory medications to subdue the pain.

Glaucoma Headaches:

This type of secondary headache usually occurs due to an underlying eye condition, i.e., glaucoma, wherein either the fluid in the eye does not drain properly, or there is an over-production of the fluid, which builds up pressure within the eye causing throbbing head pain. This is usually characterised by eye pain, blurred vision, halos around lights etc. Do consult an ophthalmologist at the earliest to get proper treatment for glaucoma.

Dental Pain Headache:

Sometimes a nagging pain in the head might also be an indication of an underlying tooth or gum problem. This can also occur when the wisdom teeth that are emerging, are causing an impact on the insides and needs to be removed. Dental pain headaches are often characterised by bleeding gums, tooth decay or cyst. To get relief from this headache, one needs to visit a dentist and get proper treatment right away.