Here's What It Means When Your Headache Is In A Specific Part Of Your Head

Headache statue

Gargoyle has a headache.

BI Answers: What does the location of the pain tell you about your headache?

The National Headache Foundation estimates that 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches. But not all headaches are the same, and where you’re feeling pain says something about how you should go about seeking treatment.

There are actually many different symptoms and disorders that fall under the umbrella of headaches. Specific diagnoses vary depending on the type, location, and cause of pain as well as the age group that generally suffers. Although the causes for some types of headaches, like migraines and cluster headaches, are not entirely known, you can learn different strategies to reduce the pain depending on where you’re hurting.

Pain from headaches can occur everywhere from the back of the neck to the top of the head. Headaches are not directly caused by your brain. Rather, the most common type of headache — tension headache — can come from
the muscles and tissue in your face, neck, and around your brain. This tissue has nerve cells that, when irritated or inflamed, send messages to your brain that then signal to you that you’re feeling pain.

Gray378Keenan PepperIllustration of the face and neck muscles.

Your face and neck are made up of nearly 30 different muscles. When these muscles become irritated, the tension headache that could result will generally feel like a band of dull pain across the forehead accompanied by a sensation of pressure. The areas where tension headaches often occur are:

  • Top of the head
  • Back of the head and the forehead
  • In and around the ears and temples
  • Eyes and eyebrows
  • Cheeks
  • Jaw
  • Throat and front and back of the neck
  • In and around the teeth and mouth

The pain can arise from infections like a cold or flu, inflammation of the facial and neck muscles, or in more severe cases, cancer. Some muscles, like those in your neck, can radiate pain to other parts of the head like your head and face, so you feel pain in the neck and elsewhere. Most facial muscles, on the other hand, localise the pain so you only feel it in the particularly irritated spot.

Sinus painNIAIDThere are four types of sinus pain.

If you’re feeling pain in your face or jaw, that could be due to your sinuses acting up. It could also result from dental or eye problems or an ear infection. Headaches that come from issues with your neck, called a cervicogenic headache, are often caused by simply over-stressing your neck due to poor posture, fatigue, disc problems, and more.

Another rare form of headache is what is called a trigeminal neuralgia, which affects about one in every 15 to 20 thousand people. Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that leads to sharp, stabbing pains in specific spots on the face.

The cause and pain sensation varies widely between tension headaches, migraines, hangover headaches, stress headaches, sinus headaches and more.

That’s why when seeking treatment it’s important to know what kind of headache you’re suffering. Good questions to ask yourself is:

  • How long has this headache been going on?
  • How frequent are the headaches?
  • Is the pain localised or all over?
  • Where is the pain located?
  • Am I sick or do I have any infection that might be the cause?

Using your answers, a doctor may be able to help you determine the root cause of your headache and how to best treat it, although there’s still much to be learned about headaches. Still, don’t just assume that there is no treatment for your suffering.

What does the location of the pain tell you about the nature of a headache? appeared as a question on Quora where we got the idea for this post.

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