What is a headache?
- Primary (such as tension or migraines)
- Secondary, attributed to an underlying condition, or
- Painful cranial neuropathies (more commonly known as a shooting or burning pain)
It is advisable to see your GP for an initial consultation if you have a new, severe or unexpected headache. They will be able to assess whether your headache is possibly a symptom of another condition or if it is one of the primary types. If they have any concerns they can refer you to a consultant for further investigation.
What are primary headaches?
Tension-type headache is the most common but least studied type of primary headache: it can affect 90-95% of the population at least once in their lifetime.
Peripheral pain mechanisms and central sensitisation are most likely to play a role for most of the episodes. A migraine instead is considered a neurovascular pain, but it is unclear if the triggering factor is as a result of an increased or decreased pressure in the neck region. Typically, migraines are commonly associated with symptoms such as increased sensitivity to sounds and light, nausea and vomiting.
Migraines are the most studied primary headache, even if it counts only for the 10-15% of the cases. Migraines alone have a huge impact on the UK economy, accounting for £8.8 billion in loss annually.