Headache Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Headache Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


Headache is one of the complaints that many adults feel. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that at least half of the world’s adult population has experienced headaches each year. Headaches can be in the form of throbbing sensations, like being pricked, or like being tied.

According to the International Headache Society, there are two types of headaches, namely:

  • Primary headache

Primary headaches are headaches caused by disturbances in parts of the head, such as muscles, blood vessels, or nerves.

  • Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are headaches caused by other diseases.

Most of the headache complaints experienced by a person are primary headaches.


Headache symptoms vary, depending on the type of headache. There are three types of primary headaches, namely migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache experienced by adults. This type of headache is characterized by a feeling of tightness in the head, or a feeling of stiffness in the head and neck.

Migraines are characterized by complaints of throbbing headaches, often felt only on one side of the head. When a headache occurs, complaints of blurred vision, numb hands or feet, difficulty speaking, or other nervous disorders (medically called an aura) can appear.

Cluster headaches cause complaints of stabbing headaches, especially in the area around the eyes. Due to the intense pain, the eyes and nose often become watery.

In secondary headaches, especially those caused by brain tumors, strokes, and brain hemorrhages, the headaches are so intense that they are unbearable, accompanied by spraying vomiting, and even consciousness can be disturbed.


The cause of primary headaches is overstimulation of the blood vessels, muscles, or nerves in the head and neck area. It is not known for certain what underlies this overstimulation, but conditions of stress, anxiety, fatigue, or depression often trigger this condition.

While secondary headaches can be caused by many diseases. Some of them are brain tumors, brain hemorrhage, glaucoma, stroke, and so on.


Generally, to determine the type of headache you are experiencing, no additional examination is needed. However, if the headache cannot be treated with medication, sometimes further tests such as a CT scan or MRI are needed.


The main treatment for primary headaches is rest and taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If headaches recur, doctors will generally give other drugs – for example, tricyclic antidepressants, beta-blockers, and serotonin receptor agonists, to prevent headaches from arising again.

Meanwhile, the treatment of secondary headaches depends on the cause. If the cause is a brain tumor or brain hemorrhage, surgery is generally needed.


To prevent headaches, the following needs to be done:

  • Avoid stress as much as possible
  • Make it a habit to have time for relaxation. Relaxation can be done by sleeping, exercising, recreation, doing hobbies, and others.
  • Eat regularly
  • Exercise 4–5 times a week, for 30–60 minutes each time

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