Headaches. The word itself doesn’t sound too unpleasant. After all, how bad could an achy head be? Very bad, as it turns out. For the 14 million Americans who suffer from daily migraines, headaches are no joke. In total, there are over 200 types of headaches, ranging anywhere from non-threatening to deadly. While most of the headaches we get are harmless, it’s important to be aware of what makes a headache dangerous. The headaches themselves aren’t what hurt us, but rather they are warning signs of other things wrong with our body.
To better understand headaches, and what they tell us about our health, it might be useful to know the two main types of headaches: primary and secondary. Primary headaches are the ones that occur regularly. For instance, those little headaches you might get if you’re cooped up in a small car with a lot of loud people or have stared at a computer screen for too long. These are perfectly normal. Migraines, as serious as they are, could even be classified as primary headaches. Although, the Migraine Research Foundation makes it clear that a migraine is “not just a bad headache.” They go on to describe migraines as “extremely debilitating collection of neurological symptoms that usually includes a severe recurring intense throbbing pain on one side of the head.” While they aren’t life threatening, anyone suffering from migraines should consult their doctor and determine what treatment is right for them.
This brings us to secondary headaches. These are the ones that are meant to alert us to a more serious health condition – one that we might not be able to see on the surface. Just because it’s a secondary headache, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something extreme. For instance, they can be caused by something as simple as neck pains. But for the times when they aren’t brought on by a sore neck, it helps to know what might be causing them. Below, you’ll find four types of headaches and the greater health issues that they often indicate. Remember, if you find yourself experiencing any of these headaches, don’t panic. Contact your doctor immediately and they will know exactly what to do.
1. The “Thunderclap”
Thunderclap headaches are on you before you even know it. They happen frequently and are very severe despite their short duration. Bleeding around the brain is one of the many serious problems that thunderclap headaches could be a symptom of.
2. A Head Injury
This one might go without saying, but if you suffer a head injury and continue to feel headaches, it is vital that you schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP. Left untreated, concussions can cause long-term damage to your physical and mental health.
3. First Thing In The Morning
It is incredibly uncommon to experience a headache when you wake up after getting a good night’s rest. If you find yourself waking up in pain after the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, it might be a sign of a more serious condition.
4. Sudden Headaches
Similar to “thunderclap” headaches, these are nothing to mess with. They often make you feel weak in the face, legs, or arms. If you find yourself feeling numb on one-half of your body in addition to these other symptoms, it could be the first stage of a heart attack.