Headaches are just a pain in the head. But did you know there are different types of headaches and they all present differently? There are A LOT of different types of headaches. Some are just small and lingering in the background and then sometimes you get some headaches that are just pounding  and throbbing. Either way, it can really uncomfortable. 

Here is a quick breakdown of the more common types of headaches that you might experience. 

There are primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches means there is no physical cause for the headache whereas secondary means there is a physical cause to the headache.


This type of headache is characterised as a primary headache. There is no physical cause for the headache.

  • Can last 4-72 hours
  • One sided ~70% of the time
    • Can shift sided
  • Pulsating or throbbing experience
  • Moderate-severe intensity
  • Usually on the frontal/peri-orbital or temporal area 
  • May experience accompanying symptoms such as sensitivity to light or sound

Tension Type Headache

This is also a primary headache however this headache is what most people experience. It can be triggered by stress or an emotional experience. For example, you could have had a very busy and stressful day at work this could cause a headache. 

  • Can last ~30min to 7 days
  • It can be on both sides of the head
    • It doesn’t shift – more global
  • There is no pulsating/throbbing but there is a tightening or pressure building experience
  • Mild-Moderate in severity
  • Usually globally around the head but more presented at the front of the head like a band. 
  • May experience accompanying symptoms such as sensitivity to light or sound

Cervicogenic Headache

This is a secondary headache. Something else is causing this type of headache. This can be related to posture and the way you sit or it could be related to a past car accident and you’ve experienced some level of whiplash. This is the type of headaches that Physiotherapist are trained to help in. Remember, this is a secondary headache caused by something physical and a Physiotherapist specialises in the human body.

  • This headache is brought on with neck movements and can last from 1hr to weeks.
  • It presents on the side that you may have the neck pain
    • Cannot side shift
  • There is no pulsating/throbbing experience
  • Moderate in severity
  • Usually starts in the neck and can go up to the back of the head before going up the head

Can you experience more than one type of headache?

Yes! You can be experiencing more than one type of headache and they can overlap. There can be overlap between types of headaches. For example, you could have a cervicogenic type of headache and still have some symptoms of a migraine. Headaches are not categorised into one type of headache because there are A LOT of types and you could be experiencing a mixture. 

If you experience a headache and it sounds similar to something a physiotherapist can treat, give us a call or book in with our trained Physiotherapist. 


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