Not All Headache Pain Is Created Equal: How To Know The Difference. National Headache Awareness Week

headaches and stressHeadaches Are No Small Matter 

Almost half of all adults around the world suffer from headache disorders, such as migraines and tension headaches reported the World Health Organization.

“Headache and migraine disorders are greatly underrated and underreported by health systems and receive too little attention,” said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, the WHO’s Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders.


Did You Know?…

  • More people in the U.S. suffer from migraines than from asthma and diabetes combined (Harris Decima)
  • Migraines affect around one in six women and one in 12 men (WHO)
  • Worldwide, migraines are the cause of 1.3% of all disability due to illness (WHO)
  • The European Union (EU) loses 190 million days every year because of migraines (WHO)
  • During migraine attacks, 90% of people postpone household chores, almost three-quarters have limited ability to work, and half of them miss work entirely (WHO)
  • Migraines have been estimated to be the most expensive brain disorder in the EU and the United States (WHO)
  • Research posted in the Journal of Neurology in 2008 found that 1 in 5 migraine suffers missed work or school because of their migraines
  • Migraines are the cause of an estimated 400,000 lost days from work or school every year per million of the population in developed countries (WHO)
  • The total annual cost of all headache has recently been estimated at 155 billion euros in the EU ($229 billion) (WHO)
  • 2002 Harris Decima survey found that respondents said they lost the equivalent of more than four days of work a year on average because of migraines. Based on an estimated 18.5 million migraine sufferers in the workforce, migraines results in roughly 80 million lost workdays per year in the US.
  • Headaches, especially migraines, have a tendency to run in families. Most children and adolescents (90%) who have migraines have other family members with migraines. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70% chance that the child will also develop migraines. If only one parent has a history of migraines, the risk drops to 25%-50%.


There are 150 diagnostic headache categories that have been established.

The most common types of headaches are:

Tension headaches: Also called chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches, tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults and adolescents. These muscle contraction headaches cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over a prolonged period of time.

Migraines: The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although they are related to blood vessel contractions and other changes in the brain as well as inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as pounding, throbbing pain. They can last from four hours to three days and usually occur one to four times per month. Migraines are associated with symptoms such as sensitivity to light, noise, or odors; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach upset or abdominal pain. When a child is having a migraine they often look pale, feel dizzy, have blurred vision, fever, stomach upset, in addition to having the above listed symptoms.

Mixed headache syndrome: Also called transformed migraines, this is a combination of migraine and tension headaches. Both adults and children experience this type of headache.

Cluster headaches: The least common — although the most severe — type of primary headache. The pain of a cluster headache is intense and may be described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant. The pain is so severe that most cluster headache sufferers cannot sit still and will often pace during an attack. The pain is located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides. The term “cluster headache” refers to headaches that have a characteristic grouping of attacks. Cluster headaches occur one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last two weeks to three months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into “remission”) for months or years, only to recur.

Sinus headaches: Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining and usually occurs with other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.

Acute headaches: Seen in children, these are headaches that occur suddenly and for the first time and have symptoms that subside after a relatively short period of time. Acute headaches most commonly result in a visit to the pediatrician’s office and/or the emergency room. If there are no neurological signs or symptoms, the most common cause for acute headaches in children and adolescents is a respiratory or sinus infection.

Hormone headaches: Headaches in women are often associated with changing hormone levels that occur during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Chemically induced hormone changes, such as with birth control pills, also trigger headaches in some women.

Chronic progressive headaches: Also called traction or inflammatory headaches, chronic progressive headaches get worse and happen more often over time. These are the least common type of headache, accounting for less than 5% of all headaches in adults and less than 2% of all headaches in kids. Chronic progressive headaches may be the result of an illness or disorder of the brain or skull.
Chronic headache sufferers know that headaches can interfere with work, social activities and even completing the simplest task such as getting dressed.


Beverly’s Hot Tips For Building Resilience During National Headache Awareness Week:

  • Learn what triggers your headaches – conflict, noise, food, wine, odours.
  • Keep a headache journal to give you some clues as to the triggers
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get outside
  • Exercise
  • Learn relaxation techniques such as pressure point, deep breathing, visualization and muscle relaxation
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your headaches


In the Workplace

  • Through education, appropriate accommodations can be determined and guilt and stigma reduced.
  • Accommodations can centre around the removal of common triggers such as poor lighting and the wearing of perfumes. Workplace accommodations for rest and non-stimulation during the experiencing of a headache can prevent the loss of a entire day’s work. Not all headaches are created equal and by educating the entire workplace, those that suffer more severely may be able to feel supported and find the right strategies that will help them to stay productive and healthy.


Additional Resources:

Headache Awareness Week

Deep Breathing – Simple But Effective

 Coping With Life



Click Here to Read Beverly's Articles
Stress & Wellness Workshops by Beverly
Stress & Wellness Resources
Wellness Awareness Calendar
Follow Beverly on YouTube
Click to Watch Videos of Beverly in Action


Written by Beverly Beuermann-King

Building Resiliency Through Stress and Wellness Strategies. Stress and resiliency strategist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP, translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and more practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line stress and resiliency articles, books, e-briefs and media interviews.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Comment