Image via iStock.
We all get headaches from time to time. In fact, nearly every second person in the world had a headache at least once in the past year. But these can feel very different, depending on which of the nearly 200 types of headache you have.
More than half (52 per cent) of people will have a tension-type headache at some point in their life, around 18 per cent will get a migraine, and four per cent will suffer from chronic daily headaches. These are the most common headache-related diagnoses. Although there are some variations globally, the figures seem remarkably consistent across populations.
Secondary headaches can be initiated by triggering factors such as medication overuse, medication side effects, neck pain, sinus disease or dental problems. These account for small percentages individually compared to the primary headaches, but may be more treatable if the predisposing problem can be sorted out.
Tension-type headaches (TTH) feel like a dull or heavy, non-pulsating band of pain, usually on both sides of the head. The name comes from an erroneous belief that overly tight muscles are the main reason for the headache.
TTH usually occurs in episodes, with each lasting from several hours up to a few days at a time. There is not usually much associated nausea, light sensitivity or sound sensitivity.
Chronic TTH is a less common form and is diagnosed when you have experienced at least 180 days with a headache per year. It is generally not aggravated by routine physical activity; it’s just there all the time.
Genetic tendencies explain some of the risk for developing TTH, with your own risk increased threefold if you have an immediate family member with the condition.
Infrequent episodic TTH does not appear to be strongly associated with psychological stress, despite this common belief. Chronic TTH has a stronger association with higher psychological distress, but it is unclear whether this is a cause or effect of having long-term disabling headaches. (Post continues after gallery.)