Symptoms of Headache

Head pain happens with all headaches. Each type of headache has its own symptoms.

Tension Headache

Tension headaches usually start slowly and build:

  • Constant, steady pain and pressure
  • Dull and achy pain
  • Pain that is often on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
  • Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
  • Pain is from mild to severe and can vary during the day
  • Tightness in head and neck muscles
  • Problems with focus

Tension Headache: Areas of Pain

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Migraine Headache

Migraines happen in phases that may include:

  • A warning in the hours or days before in the form of:
    • A change in mood
    • Feeling tired
    • Tense muscles
    • Yawning
    • Food craving
  • An aura that lasts about 15 to 60 minutes with:
    • Flashing lights or spots
    • Short term, partial loss of eyesight
    • Speech problems
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Numbness or tingling that starts in the hands and spreads to the arms, face, and mouth
    • Restlessness
    • Confusion
  • Migraine pain that starts within an hour of the aura ending:
    • A headache, usually on one side but may be on both
    • A headache that is intense, throbbing, or pulsating and is worse when you move
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Sensitivity to light or sound
    • Sore or achy muscles
    • Lightheadedness
  • A post headache period that often lasts for 4 to 72 hours and often goes away with sleep. After the headache, you may have:
    • Problems with focus
    • Tiredness

Cluster Headache

Cluster headacheshave stabbing and burning head pain that:

  • Is on one side of the head
  • Often starts around the eye and spreads to the same side of the head
  • Can happen every day or almost every day for 4 to 8 weeks
  • Can happen 1 to 8 times a day
  • Often happens at about the same time each day
  • Gets worse over time
  • May start 2 hours after you go to sleep
  • Can wake you from sleep
  • May last up to 3 hours
  • May happen with restlessness and agitation

Symptoms of a Cluster Headache

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During the headache, you may also have:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Redness or watering of the eye
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Very small pupils in the eye
  • Swelling of your face

Sinus Headache

Sinus headache problems are:

  • Pain and tenderness behind the forehead and cheeks and around the eyes
  • Pain in the back of the neck or upper teeth
  • Pain that is from mild to severe
  • Pain that is worse first thing in the morning
  • Pain that feel worse when you bend over
  • Headache along with other signs of sinusitis:
    • Nasal congestion
    • Thick nasal drainage
    • Post nasal drip
    • Fever
    • Tiredness
    • Stuffy ears
    • Sore throat
    • Cough
    • Puffiness around the eyes

Sinus Headache: Areas of Pain

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Cluster headache. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 16, 2016. Accessed January 11, 2019.
Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS) The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition. Cephalalgia. 2018 Jan;38(1):1-211.
Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: Accessed January 11, 2019.
Headaches, rebound. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscoh.... Updated March 2, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2019.
Migraine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated November 8, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2019.
NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Accessed January 11, 2019.
Tension-type headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 8, 2017. Accessed January 11, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/11/2019

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