Primary Headaches versus Secondary Headaches

Primary Headaches versus Secondary Headaches

Many people are not aware that there are actually many types of headaches. Each of these types of headache is based on where the pain starts and how severe it is, along with the accompanying symptoms.

What Defines a Headache?

Headaches are defined by pain anywhere in the head or neck area, and can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying issue. Often there are other symptoms that accompany a headache, and these can help determine what kind of headache someone might have.

  • Types of headaches – Headaches themselves are often categorized. Sometimes this categorization is based on the location of the pain, the severity of the pain, or the other symptoms presented with the headache. From migraines to tension headaches, there are many types of headache.
  • Categorization of headaches – Headaches are often described with their accompanying symptoms and according to what area of the brain is affected. For example, sinus headaches are named for the sinus pain and pressure that often accompany such a headache.
  • Pain receptors – The brain itself does not have pain sensors, but the nerves around the brain are receptive to pain. There are nine main areas of the head and neck that have these pain receptors: the skull itself, muscles, eyes, ears, sinuses, nerves, arteries, tissue, and mucous membranes.

There are many other ways to categorize headaches, though. Headaches are also put into two different categories: primary or secondary. These are the broadest classifications of headaches.

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches are headaches that are benign, meaning they are not caused by a severe underlying condition. Often primary headaches are recurrent, meaning they can happen very often. A lot of migraines are considered to be primary headaches because they can reoccur daily but have no underlying condition or reason to occur. Primary headaches overall, despite being a painful nuisance, are not dangerous.

Treatment of primary headaches often depends on the type and severity of the headache. Recurrent headaches are sometimes treated with medications that are specifically meant to alter the nerves in the brain. Most of the time primary headaches are treated with pain medications.

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches are headaches that are caused by a potentially dangerous underlying condition. A secondary headache, for example, could be an indicator of a brain tumor or bleeding.

Secondary headaches are not always fatal or even at all dangerous. Many are completely harmless, and are indicators of easily treated conditions. For example, a headache could indicate an easily treated sinus infection.

The treatment of secondary headaches often depends on the underlying condition causing the symptom. Sometimes treatment is as simple as drinking a glass of water to fend off dehydration; other times medication or even surgery is necessary. Pain medications are often utilized for the treatment of secondary headaches as well as primary headaches.

To determine if a headache is primary or secondary, it is best that you see a doctor. Especially in the cases of recurrent or very severe headaches, classification and treatment is best performed by a physician. Sometimes a specialist might be necessary, if a severe underlying condition is suspected or if doctors are not able to control the pain and/or recurrence of the headaches.

About author

Olivia is a passionate blogger and book bug who enjoys nature.
Related posts

When to Seek Medical Care for a Headache


Tension Headaches


Not All Pain Medications Are the Same


Headaches with Dizziness

Sign up for our Newsletter and
stay informed

Leave a Reply

COVID-19 Updates