Throbbing pain in the head
Throbbing Headaches: What Causes Them?
Written by Alyson Powell Key
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 21, 2021
In this Article
- Caffeine Withdrawal
Throbbing pain is one of the symptoms of a headache. It’s a pulsing, beating sensation that happens over and over again. Anyone can get this type of headache, but it’s most likely to happen to women.
Certain conditions like migraines or caffeine withdrawal can trigger a throbbing headache. Drinking too much alcohol can cause one, too.
If you regularly eat or drink products with caffeine, it’s possible to become hooked. Researchers say that as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine, or one small cup of coffee a day, can create an addiction.
If you suddenly cut back or stop having caffeine, you might feel symptoms of withdrawal -- negative and sometimes painful physical symptoms that hit when you cut back or stop using an addictive drug.
In general, the more caffeine you’re used to, the worse your withdrawal symptoms will be. One sign of caffeine withdrawal is a throbbing headache, which happens when your blood vessels expand too much.
Besides a headache, there are other symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. They include:
- Low energy
- Depressed mood
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling cranky or annoyed easily
- Foggy feeling
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle pain and stiffness
Eating or drinking something with caffeine in it is a quick way to get rid of withdrawal symptoms, including a throbbing headache.
But if you want to kick your caffeine addiction and these symptoms for good, experts say to slowly taper off caffeine and substitute it with products that don’t have caffeine.
In the meantime, you can treat your headache by:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medicine
- Staying hydrated
- Getting rest
It’s one of the effects of drinking too much alcohol. It can last up to 3 days after drinking but likely won’t last that long.
One symptom of a hangover is throbbing pain on both sides of your head. This is due to alcohol widening and irritating the blood vessels in your brain and nearby tissue.
Other hangover symptoms include:
- Weak or tired feeling
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and motion
Even after the alcohol is gone from your system, you could still have trouble with:
- Reaction time
- Hand and finger coordination
Researchers are still studying whether hangover treatments actually work. But they recommend:
Drinking liquids. Things like water, broth, and some sports drinks prevent dehydration.
Avoiding alcohol. Sometimes called the “hair of the dog,” the so-called hangover cure of more drinking will only make you feel worse as you get more dehydrated.
Taking a pain reliever. Avoid acetaminophen, since it can cause liver swelling and failure. Take an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) instead.
Taking vitamin B6. Whether it’s from food or supplements, getting some vitamin B6 before or after you drink could help prevent a headache.
Go to the hospital right away if your symptoms don’t go away after a few days, or you’re showing signs of an alcohol overdose, which include:
- Breathing issues
- Pale or blue skin
- Passing out and not being able to be woken up
Migraines are a type of headache that happen over and over again. Your genes could determine whether or not you’ll get them.
Many things trigger migraines, including stress, loud noises, certain foods, or changes in the weather. This type of headache causes throbbing or pulsing pain, often on one side of your head.
A migraine usually starts slowly, then ramps up and causes throbbing or pulsing pain. It’s possible to have migraine without a headache, but still be sensitive to light, noise, and odors, feel sick to your stomach and throw up, or have pain when you move, cough, or sneeze.
The goal of migraine treatment is to ease your symptoms and stop future headaches. Your doctor could recommend a mix of medicine and home remedies:
Pain relief medication. Over-the-counter or prescription medicine that could be tablets, nasal sprays, or shots. It’s best to take them at the first sign of a migraine.
Preventive medication. You’ll take these drugs, maybe as often as every day, to lessen the number of migraine attacks you have and help make them less severe.
Rest. Go to a quiet, dark room, close your eyes, and take a break.
Cold therapy. Cold packs or caps on your forehead or neck can cool the blood flowing through your vessels and ease inflammation.
Headache Pain: When to Worry, What to Do - Harvard Health Publishing
Nearly everyone has had headache pain, and most of us have had it many times. A minor headache is little more than a nuisance that's relieved by an over-the-counter pain reliever, some food or coffee, or a short rest. But if your headache is severe or unusual, you might worry about stroke, a tumor, or a blood clot. Fortunately, such problems are rare. Still, you should know when a headache needs urgent care and how to control the vast majority of headaches that are not threatening to your health.What causes headaches?
Doctors don't fully understand what causes most headaches. They do know that the brain tissue and the skull are never responsible since they don't have nerves that register pain. But the blood vessels in the head and neck can signal pain, as can the tissues that surround the brain and some major nerves that originate in the brain. The scalp, sinuses, teeth, and muscles and joints of the neck can also cause head pain.When to worry about a headache
You can take care of many types of headaches by yourself, and your doctor can give you medication to control most of the tougher headaches. But some headaches call for prompt medical care. Here are some warning signs for when you should worry about headaches:
- Headaches that first develop after age 50
- A major change in the pattern of your headaches
- An unusually severe headache
- Head pain that increases with coughing or movement
- Headaches that get steadily worse
- Changes in personality or mental function
- Headaches that are accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, decreased alertness or memory, or neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or seizures
- Headaches that are accompanied by a painful red eye
- Headaches that are accompanied by pain and tenderness near the temples
- Headaches after a blow to the head
- Headaches that prevent normal daily activities
- Headaches that come on abruptly, especially if they wake you up
- Headaches in patients with cancer or impaired immune systems
There are more than 300 types of headaches, but only about 10% of headaches have a known cause. The others are called primary headaches. Here is a rundown on some major primary headaches.Tension headaches
Occurring in about three of every four adults, tension headaches are the most common of all headaches. In most cases, they are mild to moderate in severity and occur infrequently. But a few people get severe tension headaches, and some are troubled by them for three or four times a week.
The typical tension headache produces a dull, squeezing pain on both sides of the head. People with strong tension headaches may feel like their head is in a vise. The shoulders and neck can also ache. Some tension headaches are triggered by fatigue, emotional stress, or problems involving the muscles or joints of the neck or jaw. Most last for 20 minutes to two hours.
If you get occasional tension-type headaches, you can take care of them yourself. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, other brands) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve, other brands), or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, other brands) often do the trick, but follow the directions on the label, and never take more than you should. A heating pad or warm shower may help; some people feel better with a short nap or light snack.
If you get frequent tension-type headaches, try to identify triggers so you can avoid them. Don't get overtired or skip meals. Learn relaxation techniques; yoga is particularly helpful because it can relax both your mind and your neck muscles. If you clench your jaw or grind your teeth at night, a bite plate may help.
If you need more help, your doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication or a muscle relaxant to control headache pain. Many people with recurrent tension-type headaches can prevent attacks by taking a tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline (Elavil, generic). Fortunately, most people with tension-type headaches will do very well with simpler programs.Migraine
Migraines occur less often than tension headaches, but they are usually much more severe. They are two to three times more common in women than men, but that's small consolation if you are among the 6% to 8% of all men who have migraines. And since a Harvard study of 20,084 men age 40 to 84 reported that having migraines boosts the risk of heart attacks by 42%, men with migraines should take their headaches to heart.
Neurologists believe that migraines are caused by changes in the brain's blood flow and nerve cell activity. Genetics play a role since 70% of migraine victims have at least one close relative with the problem.
Migraine triggers. Although a migraine can come on without warning, it is often set off by a trigger. The things that set off a migraine vary from person to person, but a migraine sufferer usually remains sensitive to the same triggers. The table lists some of the most common ones.
| Major migraine triggers |
Migraine symptoms. Migraines often begin in the evening or during sleep. In some people, the attacks are preceded by several hours of fatigue, depression, and sluggishness or by irritability and restlessness. Because migraine symptoms vary widely, at least half of all migraine sufferers think they have sinus or tension headaches, not migraines.
About 20% of migraines begin with one or more neurological symptoms called an aura. Visual complaints are most common. They may include halos, sparkles or flashing lights, wavy lines, and even temporary loss of vision. The aura may also produce numbness or tingling on one side of the body, especially the face or hand. Some patients develop aura symptoms without getting headaches; they often think they are having a stroke, not a migraine.
The majority of migraines develop without an aura. In typical cases, the pain is on one side of the head, often beginning around the eye and temple before spreading to the back of the head. The pain is frequently severe and is described as throbbing or pulsating. Nausea is common, and many migraine patients have a watering eye, a running nose, or congestion. If these symptoms are prominent, they may lead to a misdiagnosis of sinus headaches. One way to remember the features of migraine is to use the word POUND
P is for pulsating pain
O for one-day duration of severe untreated attacks
U for unilateral (one-sided) pain
N for nausea and vomiting
D for disabling intensity.
Without effective treatment, migraine attacks usually last for four to 24 hours. When you're suffering a migraine, even four hours is far too long — and that's why early treatment for a migraine is so important.
Migraine treatment. If you spot a migraine in its very earliest stages, you may be able to control it with nonprescription pain relievers. Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and a combination of pain medications and caffeine are all effective — if you take a full dose very early in the attack.
When prescription drugs are needed, most doctors turn to the triptans, which are available as tablets, nasal sprays, or as injections that patients can learn to give to themselves. Examples include sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and rizatriptan (Maxalt). Triptans provide complete relief within two hours for up to 70% of patients; the response is best if treatment is started early. Some patients require a second dose within 12 to 24 hours. Patients with cardiovascular disease and those who take a high dose of certain antidepressants need to discuss the risks of using them with their doctor.
Work with your doctor to find the migraine treatment that works best for you. Remember, though, that overuse can lead to rebound headaches and a vicious cycle of drugs and headaches. So, if you need treatment more than two or three times a week, consider preventive medications.
Migraine prevention. Some people can prevent migraines simply by avoiding triggers. Others do well with prompt therapy for occasional attacks. But patients who suffer frequent migraine attacks often benefit from preventive medications. Effective prescription drugs include beta blockers (such as propranolol, nadolol and atenolol), certain antidepressants (such as amitriptyline), and certain antiseizure medications (such topiramate and valproate). Difficult cases may benefit from referral to a headache specialist.Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are uncommon but very severe headaches, and they occur five times more often in men than women. Although anyone can get cluster headaches, the typical patient is a middle-aged man with a history of smoking.
The problem gets its name because the headaches tend to come in clusters, with one to eight headaches a day during a one- to three-month period every year or two, often at the same time of year. The pain always strikes one side of the head and is very severe. The eye on the painful side is red and watery, the eyelid may droop, and the nose runs or is blocked. The attack starts abruptly and lasts for 30 to 60 minutes. Most sufferers become restless and agitated during the attack; unable to sit still, they pace, jog in place, or beat their head against a wall. Nausea and sensitivity to light and sound may accompany the pain.
Inhaling high flow oxygen soon after the onset of the headache can often stop the attack. Sumatriptan is often effective for cluster headaches, particularly when given by injection. Other triptans may also help. Some patients favor lidocaine nose drops, dihydroergotamine injections, or other treatments. The most effective medication for preventing cluster headache attacks is verapamil, a calcium-channel blocker. Other drugs that may help include divalproex, topiramate, and lithium.Other types of headaches
Doctors have diagnosed hundreds of conditions associated with headaches. Here are just a few:
Medication headaches. Many drugs number headaches among their side effects. And although it seems paradoxical, many medications used to treat headaches can also cause medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches. Migraine sufferers are particularly vulnerable to a vicious cycle of pain leading to more medication, which triggers more pain. If you have frequent headaches and use medication, OTC or prescription, or both, for more than 10 to 15 days a month, you may have medication overuse headaches. The way to find out is to discontinue or taper your medication — but always consult your doctor first. A corticosteroid such as prednisone may help control pain during the withdrawal period.
Sinus headaches. Acute sinusitis causes pain over the forehead, around the nose and eyes, over the cheeks, or in the upper teeth. Stooping forward increases the pain. Thick nasal discharge, congestion, and fever pinpoint the problem to the sinuses. When the acute infection resolves, the pain disappears. Sinusitis is not a common cause of chronic or recurrent headaches.
Ice cream headaches. Some people develop sharp, sudden headache pain when they eat anything cold. The pain is over in less than a minute, even if you keep eating. If you are bothered by ice cream headaches, try eating slowly and warming the cold food at the front of your mouth before you swallow it.
Headache from high blood pressure. Except in cases of very high blood pressure, hypertension does not cause headaches. In fact, most people with high blood pressure don't have any symptoms at all, and a study of 51,234 people reported that hypertension was associated with a reduced incidence of headaches. But that's no reason to neglect your blood pressure. Hypertension leads to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, and kidney disease, so all men should have their pressure checked, and then take steps to correct abnormalities.
Headache from exercise and sex. Sudden, strenuous exercise can bring on a headache. Gradual warm-ups or treatment with an anti-inflammatory medication before exercise can help. Sexual intercourse may also trigger headaches; some men note only dull pain, but others suffer from severe attacks called orgasmic headaches. Some people can prevent orgasmic headaches by taking an NSAID 30 to 60 minutes before intercourse.Headache testing
Modern medicine depends on tests to diagnose many problems. For most headaches, though, a good old-fashioned history and physical will do the job. In fact, CT scans, MRIs, and EEGs (brain wave tests) look normal in tension-type headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Still, these tests can be vital in patients with warning signs or other worrisome headaches.Living with constant headaches
For most of us, an occasional headache is nothing more than a temporary speed bump in the course of a busy day. Even so, most men can ease the problem with simple lifestyle measures and nonprescription medications. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, yoga, and acupuncture may also help. But for some of us, headaches are a big problem. Learn to recognize warning signs that call for prompt medical care. Work with your doctor to develop a program to prevent and treat migraines and other serious headaches. And don't fall into the trap of overusing medications; for some gents, rebound headaches are the biggest pain of all.
Image: wavebreakmedia LLC/Getty Images
Causes of headache | Doctor KITCauses of headache
Unpleasant sensations are not a disease in themselves, but they allow diagnosing a number of other diseases. Headache can be different. It can be classified according to the type of sensations - pressing, pulsating, sharp. Pain is also distinguished by the cause of occurrence - it is an independent disease or a symptom.
Primary headache is an independent disease. Unpleasant sensations are the main and often the only symptom. Such cases account for approximately 90% of all visits to a therapist. This category includes:
- Tension headache.
- Cluster headache.
- Pain during physical exertion, sexual tension, etc.
Symptomatic (secondary) pain is a manifestation of pathologies and diseases of the brain and other structures that are in this area. Secondary ones include drug-induced headache (MIH), which usually develops if the patient has already had migraines.
Women are more prone to migraine. Most intensively manifested in 35-45 years. It is diagnosed as an intense attack that occurs 2-4 times a month.
Migraine is a pain of a throbbing nature, the focus is on one side of the face, in the forehead, at the temple and around the eyes. At the beginning of an attack, unpleasant sensations appear in the back of the head and “crawl” forward. When moving, the discomfort becomes stronger. A well-known symptom of migraine is photophobia, as well as a sharp reaction to sound. The disease is often accompanied by nausea, and in young people - drowsiness.
Migraines are usually caused by stress. This category also includes lack of sleep and vice versa, excessive sleep, hunger. In women, the onset of menstruation can provoke an attack.
Tension headaches are treated equally regularly. HDN is divided into episodic and chronic. Both types are characterized by the same clinical picture, differ only in the duration and frequency of attacks.
In tension-type headache, the sensations are pressing, not pulsating, and can be described as a “hoop” squeezing the head. It is bilateral in nature, can spread to the back of the head, neck and trapezium. Unlike migraine, it is less intense, rarely accompanied by additional symptoms, although some patients report mild nausea or dizziness.
TTH is usually caused by nervous tension, fatigue, or muscle spasm in the neck and shoulders. Usually starts in the afternoon after hard work. However, the patient remains functional.
Most often, HDN provokes prolonged forced retention of the muscles of the head and neck in one position, for example, when working at a computer or driving a car. Discomfort also occurs with excitement and negative emotions.
Cluster pain combines features of primary headache and neuralgia. This is one-sided severe pain, the focus of which is in the eye area, in the superciliary or temporal region. All attacks usually occur in the same place. From severe pain, the eyes tear, the eyelid swells, nasal congestion and sweating are noted.
Cluster pain is characterized by seasonal exacerbation and alternation of attacks and a remission period. The exact cause of the disease has not been established, but doctors attribute pain to the work of the hypothalamus. Its rhythmic activation leads to the expansion of the vessels of the dura mater, the release of pain neuropeptides. This creates a spasm similar to a migraine attack.
The only way to get rid of the problem is to start a course of drugs as soon as possible, after the first signs of an exacerbation, and strictly follow the doctor's recommendations. If the patient's attack can be predicted, then treatment begins in advance.
There are many problems that are symptomatic of headaches. So with osteochondrosis, it hurts in the back of the head, and pain and pressure in the temples is one of the symptoms of blood pressure drops.
Pain in the temples can be caused by an infection, with a general feeling of being unwell. Headache concentrated in the frontal lobe speaks of inflammatory processes. Such sensations are accompanied by pneumonia, meningitis, as well as more serious infectious diseases. In this case, there is an increase in temperature, body aches.
The cause of regular pain may be a head injury, sensations depend on the location and nature of the injury. Such pain is often aggravated by a change in the weather.
The whole head, without a pinpoint focus, hurts with allergies. Since the disease is accompanied by a runny nose and swelling, which creates excessive pressure in the head. Sensations of a general type are manifested with the abuse of caffeine. When a break in the use of the drink provokes discomfort throughout the face and head.
Cheeks, eye area and forehead hurt with sinusitis. If this phenomenon is regular, you need to check if the nasal septum is curved.
Stress is a common cause of headaches. Pulsations are felt in the forehead area with an overabundance of emotions, anxiety or severe overwork.
Malocclusion can also cause pain in the lower part of the face. Improper jaw position creates excess force. In this case, you can hear characteristic clicks in the temples.
The causes of headaches are varied. Even when discomfort is not a symptom of serious health problems, without proper treatment, the disease easily becomes chronic. Self-medication can also worsen the condition. So with migraine, uncontrolled intake of painkillers can provoke chronic attacks.
Therefore, an experienced doctor should deal with the diagnosis and selection of a course of medicines. In our clinic, you can undergo diagnostics and get a detailed consultation about your problem.
After passing the examination, the therapist will select the optimal course of treatment, after which the pain will not affect the emotional state and performance. Even with a chronic problem, the quality of life will again reach the proper level.
Make an appointment with a general practitioner by calling
8 (8652) 99-88-55
or on the website of the Clinic of Innovative Technologies
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how they differ and what they talk about
Headache can become chronic and significantly spoil life, affecting a person's performance and normal functioning in society. Few people know, but there are different types of headaches , which differ from each other both in causes and methods of treatment. About what are types of headaches and their causes , as well as signs of headache we tell in the article.
Why is headache so dangerous?
Almost all types of headaches activate the same pain receptors. This can make it difficult to know if your headache is a sign of a serious condition or not. The most serious causes of headaches include:
- hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in your brain ruptures and bleeds;
- aneurysm. Bulging or swelling of a blood vessel in the brain;
- meningitis. A bacterial or viral infection that causes swelling of the protective lining of the brain;
- brain tumor. A "primary" brain tumor starts in the brain and can be malignant or benign.
To understand if your headache is dangerous, it is important to understand the types of headaches, their causes, and how to get rid of the headache.
Types of headaches
Headaches are caused by signals interacting between the brain, blood vessels, and surrounding nerves. During a headache, an unknown mechanism activates certain nerves that affect the muscles and blood vessels. These nerves send pain signals to the brain.
What types of headaches are there? Headaches can be more complex than most people think. Different types of headaches may have their own set of symptoms, occur for unique reasons, and require different treatments.
Once you know what type of headache you have, your doctor will be able to suggest treatments that will help you manage and prevent them.
Types of headaches by localization:
- migraine - severe and throbbing pain in one half of the head.
- hypertension - severe throbbing pain, usually in the back of the head.
- stress - prolonged pain “compressing” the head like a hoop.
- influenza, acute respiratory infections - pain in the superciliary arches, forehead and temples.
- osteochondrosis - a sharp pain in the back of the head and at the temples.
About the types of headaches, about headaches by zones, we will tell further.
The most common type of headache is tension headache, which does not recur often and becomes chronic in only 3% of cases. It occurs due to injuries to the muscles of the neck and head, as well as due to severe stress. When diagnosing, most often the source of pain is not determined.
Signs: There is tightness or pressure around the top of the head, and the muscles of the eye sockets and forehead may seem very tense and impossible to relax. The intensity of the pain usually increases in the evening. The duration of such pain can be as much as half an hour, or a week.
Treatment: if the tension pain is irregular, it is better to use simple painkillers, and also try to be in the fresh air more often, do light physical exercises, stretch your neck and shoulders. Chronic pain should be treated with medication as prescribed by a doctor.
Attention! Self-medication can harm your health, be sure to consult your doctor before taking any medication.
Cluster pain affects about 1% of the world's population. Interestingly, in 80% of cases, cluster pain bothers men. Her reasons are unknown.
Signs: throbbing intense pain on one side of the head, usually around the eye. It lasts 15-60 minutes and is accompanied by tearing, redness of the eyes, a rush of blood to the head, and a runny nose. Sometimes it can become so acute that the person cannot even talk. Cluster pains occur with uniform time intervals at the same time of day - once a month, a week.
Treatment: Difficult to treat because they come and go unpredictably. For prolonged attacks, drug injections and oxygen therapy are used.
A possible cause of migraine is brain dysfunction, but it is currently unknown which cause. There is evidence that when a migraine occurs, blood vessels expand greatly, and electrical activity of an abnormal nature occurs on the cerebral cortex.
Symptoms: Migraine is a type of headache on one side of the head that lasts from 4 hours to 3 days. A migraine is often described as a stabbing, throbbing pain. Migraine episodes tend to recur and often result in nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and smells.
Treatment: There is no cure for migraines, but prescription medications can help relieve some of the symptoms.
Attention! Self-medication can harm your health, be sure to consult your doctor before taking any medication.
Manifests as increasing, sudden pain in any part of the head after an injury (sometimes symptoms appear after a few hours).
Signs: accompanied by impaired speech skills, vision, coordination, nausea, personality disorders. Symptoms worsen over time, after which the person may lose consciousness.
Treatment: it is necessary to see a doctor who will remove the accumulated blood from the skull so that the hematoma does not press on the brain, thus damaging it. In this field, it is important to find out the cause of the hemorrhage by examining the vessels of the brain.
Temporal arteritis is common in patients over 50 years of age and can lead to blindness if left untreated. It occurs due to hypothermia, alcoholism, various injuries, uncontrolled medication, attacks of viral infections on the immune system.
Signs: severe headaches occur against the background of insomnia, weight loss, depression, and the neck and shoulder may also hurt.
Treatment: Steroid drugs are used to stop the inflammation of the blood vessels. With the development of related health problems, it is also necessary to contact doctors of other specialties. For example, with clouding of the lens - to an ophthalmologist.
If the headache is associated with a brain tumor, which happens in about 4% of cases, it will appear in the morning and be accompanied by vomiting. Similar episodes are repeated periodically and each time they get worse and worse. “The brain does not feel pain. There are no pain receptors in the brain. They are present only in the meninges and blood vessels. For example, when a person experiences a headache, it is not the brain itself that hurts, but the tissues surrounding it,” neurosurgeon Oleksiy Eroshkin said in an interview for Doc.ua.
Signs: seizures, sudden weight loss, personality changes in such cases become a reason to undergo a brain examination.
Treatment: Depends on size, location and type of lesion.
Hangover headache is caused by alcohol causing dehydration, which is one of the causes of migraines. In addition, alcohol dilates the vessels of the brain and disrupts the functioning of serotonin (a substance through which electrical signals are transmitted from one nerve cell to another).
Symptoms: Alcohol makes people need to urinate because it suppresses the production of a hormone called vasopressin.