Headache Location Chart By Type: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

The head is the most common site where people experience pain. Headaches can be extremely uncomfortable and have the tendency to interfere with normal activities. Fifteen percent of adult Americans complain about a severe headache and the condition is twice more common in women than in men. According to statistics, around eighteen percent of individuals experience multiple episodes of headaches per month.

Broadly, headaches can be of two types, primary and secondary. Primary headaches usually do not have a cause, but a secondary headache is always due to an underlying condition.

Headache Location Chart By Type

Migraine – One sided, top and back of
– Throbbing pain
– Nausea
– Vomiting
– Blurred vision
– Photosensitivity
– Ibuprofen
– Aspirin
– Acetaminophen
– Triptans
– Opioids
Beta blockers
Anti-seizure drugs
Tension headache – Both sides of forehead, top
of the head. Band like
– Dull aching headache
– Tightness or pressure around the
whole head
– Scalp, neck, shoulder tenderness
– Painkillers: Aspirin, ibuprofen
Tricyclic antidepressants
Anti-seizure medications
Cluster headache – Pain in or around one eye – Excruciating eye pain radiating to
face or neck
– Redness and tearing in the affected
– Restlessness
– Stuffy nose on affected side
– Oxygen inhalation
– Triptans
– Local anesthetics
– Octreotide
Calcium channel blockers
Lithium carbonate
Nerve block
Allergy or sinus headache – Forehead, cheek bones and
around the eyes
– Fullness and pressure in cheeks, fore-
head and brows
– Pain worsened with bending forward
and lying down
– Stuffy nose
– Lethargy and fatigue
– Warm and cold compresses
– Nasal decongestants
– Medications: Ibuprofen,
acetaminophen, naproxen
– Salt water irrigation
Nasal saline spray
Salt water irrigation
Hypertension headache – Pressure like headache behind
– Severe headache
– Fatigue
– Blurry vision
– Difficulty breathing
– Chest pain
– Blood pressure lowering meds
– Painkillers like Ibuprofen and
Strict control of blood pressure
via diet and medication
Medication overuse head-
– Migraine like one sided or
tension headache like
all around the head
– Extremely painful chronic headache
– Occurs daily
– Dull headache
-Weaning off of the pain meds
causing headaches
Preventative medications:
anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-histamines
Post-traumatic headache – Migraine like one sided or
tension headache like
all around the head
– Mild, moderate or severe pulsating
headache with or without nausea or
– Pain worsening with activity
– Triptans
anti-seizure medications
– Biofeedback
Anti-seizure medications
Exertion headache – Both sides of the head – Pulsating and throbbing headache
associated with physical activity
– Aspirin
– Ibuprofen
Ergotamine tartrate
Caffeine headache – Starts behind the eyes and
travels to the front of the fore
– Severe headache
– Nausea and vomiting
– Depressed mood
– Dizziness
– Pain relieving medications
– Consumption of soft water
– Pressure point massage
Either consume the same
amount of caffeine each day or
consume zero to very little
Hormone headache – Migraine like one sided
– Headache
– Loss of appetite
– Acne
– Joint pain
– Constipation
– Fatigue
– Adequate hydration
– Lying down in a dark, quiet room
– Massage and relaxation exercises
– Meds like beta blockers,
anti-convulsants and calcium
channel blockers
Preventative medications:
anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, anti-histamines
Meningitis – Generalised in the whole
– Throbbing headache
– Neck stiffness
– Dizziness
– Nausea
– Intravenous antibiotics
– Corticosteroids
Meningitis vaccines
Cervicogenic headache – One sided headache – Throbbing headache and neck pain
– Stiff neck
– Pain around eyes
– Pain with coughing and sneezing
– NSAIDS: Ibuprofen and Aspirin
– Physical therapy
– Spinal manipulation
– Yoga and acupuncture
– Surgery
Posture correction
Staying active
Spinal headache – Generalised in the whole
– Dull, throbbing pain
– Pain worsened with standing and
relieved with lying down
– Dizziness
– Ringing in the ears
– Hearing loss
– Blurred vision
– Neck stiffness
– Bed rest
– Oral pain killers
– Caffeine
Improved hydration after lumbar
Giant cell arthritis – Temporal headache – Temporal headache
– Scalp tenderness
– Jaw pain
– Vision problems
– Usually seen in people over 50 years
– Corticosteroids Maintaining a healty lifestyle
abstaining from smoking
Tumor headache – Depends on tumor location – Progressively worsening pain
– Projectile vomiting
– Vision problems
– Speech problems
– Personality changes
– Surgery or radiotherapy None
Hunger headache – Migraine like one sided or
tension headache like
all around the head
– Pain in the head before meal-time
– Muscle tension
– Fatigue and lethargy
– Regular adequate nourishing
Strict control of meal schedule
Hangover headache – Migraine like headache but on both
sides of the head
– Throbbing head pain triggered by alcohol
– Nausea
– Consumption of liquids like
broth and tomato juice
Consumption of only moderate
amount of alcohol

Primary Headaches

As mentioned before, primary headaches do not have a cause and are generally not dangerous. These headaches can be recurrent, with the sufferer experiencing multiple episodes every month

Migraine Headache

A migraine headache is a disabling condition which causes pain in half of the head. This pain lasts for approximately 72 hours and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

A migraine headache can be with or without an Aura. If somebody suffers from a migraine with aura, then they experience flashes of light, vision problems and tingling in hands or face, before a headache develops. However, migraine without aura comprises only of a headache and no symptoms before it.

What happens during a migraine headache?

It is believed by most medical professionals that, migraines occur due to a problem with the chemical substances in the brain and the nerves. This causes blood flow to the brain, and surrounding tissues to be affected leading to the sensation of pain.

A person suffering from a migraine attack may experience a pulsating and throbbing pain on either one or both sides of the head. Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and sensitivity to sound and light can also be some of the common symptoms of a migraine attack.

How to treat a migraine headache?

There are many treatment options which can be opted for, to treat a migraine attack. Pain relieving medications include Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Acetaminophen. There are some medications which narrow down the blood vessels and thus take care of the pain. Triptans and Ergot alkaloids both relieve a migraine by the said mechanism.

Stronger painkillers like Opioids (codeine) can be used if a headache gets very severe. Accompanying nausea and vomiting can be managed with anti-nausea medications like metoclopramide.

How to prevent a migraine headache?

To prevent migraine headaches from happening, the sufferer can use beta blockers, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and pain medications like naproxen.

Tension Headache

It is the most common type of headache, which affects around ninety percent of the adult population. A tension headache produces such a pain which feels like a tight band around the head. The pain can be mild or moderate.

What happens during a tension headache?

The exact cause of a tension headache is not known. However, it is believed that people experience tension headaches whenever there is an emotional or physical stress. The muscles on the scalp contract and cause you to experience the band-like pain.

The band-like pain of a tension headache is most intensely felt over the eyebrow bone. It is not throbbing and is often felt on both sides of the head.

How to treat a tension headache?

A tension headache can be easily relieved by making use of over the counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen. Other options are acetaminophens, triptans, and opioids.

How to prevent a tension headache?

Tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure medications are quite effective when it comes to preventing a tension headache.

Cluster headache

Cluster headache is the rarest of the primary headaches. It is more common among men who are in their late 20’s. It occurs patterns or clusters, hence the name. During a cluster period, a person may suffer from a headache each day, sometimes multiple times during the day. A single episode lasts around fifteen minutes to three hours, with most attacks occurring at night, usually an hour or two after going to bed.

What happens during a cluster headache?

Nobody knows why a cluster headache happens. It is believed that there is some kind of abnormality in the hypothalamus which causes it. Cluster headaches are usually seen in association with triggers like certain foods, hormonal changes, and stress.

A cluster headache presents with severe pain in or around one eye. There is redness, tearing from the affected eye along with nasal stuffiness on the same side.

How to treat a cluster headache?

A cluster headache attack can be managed by treating with oxygen inhalation. Triptans, octreotide, and local anesthetics are also useful.

How to prevent a cluster headache?

A cluster headache can be prevented by the use of calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids, lithium carbonate, melatonin, nerve block and surgery.

Secondary headaches

These headaches occur as a symptom of an underlying disease.

Allergy or Sinus Headache

Sinus headaches are usually experienced by people who suffer from seasonal or chronic allergic conditions. They present as a pain in the sinus area and the front of the head. Sinus infections can lead to sinus headaches.

Hypertension Headache

Headaches experienced as a result of elevated blood pressure are known as hypertension headaches. The pain is usually of a throbbing variety and occurs on both sides of the head. Vision disturbance, tingling or numbness and shortness of breath can also be experienced with the episode of this headache.

Medication overuse Headache

Medication overuse headache also known as a rebound headache is common in people who frequently use over the counter painkillers. These are thought to relieve pain and they do, but using them in excessive amounts can cause the development of headaches. Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are some medications which can cause rebound headaches.

Post-traumatic Headache

A headache experienced after going through a traumatic injury is known as a post-traumatic headache. It can last for around 6-12 hours after the injury and can turn into chronic headaches causing disabling pain.

Exertion Headache

Exertion headaches can happen after intense physical activity like weightlifting, track running, and sexual intercourse. Strenuous physical activity increases the flow of blood to your brain too quickly, which causes a throbbing headache. This headache does not last for too long and resolves within a few hours of stopping physical activity.

Caffeine Headache

Caffeine is a stimulant. Drinking products containing too much caffeine on a daily basis makes your body and brain depend on it. Suddenly stopping all intake of caffeine causes withdrawal and leads to a severe headache. Although it does not happen with everyone who stops caffeine intake, it is seen quite commonly.

Hormone Headaches

Hormonal fluctuation experienced by women throughout the month can cause headaches. Headaches which occur specifically in relation to menstruation are called menstrual migraines. Other than painkillers, yoga, relaxation techniques, acupuncture and lifestyle modifications also help.


Meningitis is the infection of the outer layers of tissue which covers the brain. Meningitis causes a severe headache along with a stiff neck and also makes a person sensitive to light. This can be quite fatal if not adequately treated with antibiotics.

Cervicogenic headache

If a headache is due to irritation of the tissues, muscles or bony components of the neck, then it is called a cervicogenic headache. It is accompanied by neck pain too and resolves once the neck is taken care of.

Spinal headache

The brain and spine are surrounded by fluid which maintains a certain pressure. If that fluid somehow leaks out and the pressure reduces, it leads to a headache. This type of headache gets worse when a person is upright and gets better with lying down.