Not sure what type of head pain you are having? There are four types of head pain, and each have their own head pain symptoms. Knowing the different symptoms for each type of head pain will help you distinguish which head pain you may be having and put you on a more comfortable path of finding relief. If you are having severe head pain that is greatly impacting your quality of life, it is highly recommended to see a professional right away as head pain happens to us for a reason and could be linked to something that needs to be corrected sooner than later.

Tension-Type Head Pain Symptoms

A tension-type head pain may come from disorders and diseases that affect your structure of the neck. Most tension-type headaches are short lived and come and go irregularly. For those who have a tension-type headache for 15 days or more per month for at least 3 months could have chronic tension headaches.

  • Headaches
  • Tingling in the Arms
  • Throat Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Weakness of the Arms
  • Muscle Pain
  • Stiff Neck
  • Fever

Some people with tension-type headaches have also reported sensitivity to light or sound as part of their tension-type head pain symptoms. Not to be confused with migraine head pain symptoms, which also have a sensitivity to light and sound, tension-type head pain symptoms do not include flashing lights, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, nausea or vomiting, or blind spots as migraine head pain symptoms do.

Migraine Head Pain Symptoms

It is possible for people to begin to have migraine head pain symptoms before an attack occurs. These prodrome symptoms typically begin a day or two before a migraine attack. Migraine head pain symptoms that occur before an attack may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Stiff Neck
  • Lots of Yawning
  • Moodiness or Irritability
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Thirstier than Usual
  • Food Cravings
  • Loss of Appetite

During a migraine attack, you may have the following head pain symptoms:

  • Throbbing or Pulsing Pain
  • Pain on one or Both Sides of the Face (or Eye)
  • Loss of Appetite (You may feel too sick to eat)
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred Vision
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity to Light and Sounds
  • Sensitivity to Smells and Touch
  • Fainting
  • Feeling Cold or Very Warm

When you have an aura along with your migraine attack, you may experience these following head pain symptoms as well:

  • Loss of Vision
  • Trouble Talking
  • Hearing “Phantom Noises” (Noises that are not there)
  • Loss in Control of Movements
  • Piercing Sensation in an Arm or Leg (Usually feels like pins and needles)
  • Flashing Lights or Wavy/Zig-Zag Lines
  • Feeling Numb or Weak on one Side of the Body

The migraine attack itself can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. The typical time of a migraine attack lasts for 4 to 72 hours, but there are some reports of patients who have had their migraine for a week. After a migraine attack, you may experience these after your head pain symptoms: a feeling of euphoria, feel drained or washed out (usually the attack itself can wear you out), confused, dizzy, and moody.

In some reports, patients have expressed having congestion, nasal discharge, and facial pressure as their migraine head pain symptoms. 

Cluster Headaches Head Pain Symptoms

Cluster headaches occur in clusters every day for a certain amount of time, sometimes occurring multiple times each day. A single cluster headache attack can last from 15 minutes to three hours, usually occurring at night. A cluster headache period is mostly known to last from six to 12 weeks, followed by a remission period that can last up to a year before another cluster period begins; however, it is possible for remission periods to last less than a single month.

Common head pain symptoms for a cluster headache include the following:

  • Pain on one Side of the Head
  • Drooping Eyelid on the Affected Side
  • Small Pupils
  • Pale or Flushed Face
  • Redness, Swelling, or Watering in the Eye on the Affected Side
  • Swelling Around the Eye on the Affected Side
  • Excessive Tearing
  • Stuffy, Runny, or Blocked Nose
  • Excruciating Pain (This can be stationary around one eye or travel to other areas of the head, face, neck, or shoulders)
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating on the Face or Forehead
  • Sensitivity to Light and Sound (Usually on to one side)

Cluster headaches could be mistaken as migraine headaches as some symptoms are similar, like sensitivity to light and sound. Cluster headaches start and end abruptly and lasts shorter than a migraine.

During a migraine attack, the sufferer wishes to lie down to help cope with their head pain symptoms, whereas those who experience cluster headache head pain symptoms prefer to not lie down and instead will either walk around or rock back and forth while sitting as they are uncomfortable staying still.

Sinus Headache Head Pain Symptoms

Sinus headaches, unlike the previous types of headaches mentioned above, feel like an infection in the sinuses around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. During a sinus headache, you may experience the following head pain symptoms:

  • Stuffy Nose
  • Fatigue
  • Pain, Pressure, and Fullness in the Cheeks, Brows, or Forehead
  • Pain Worsening if Bending Forward or Lie Down
  • Achy Feeling in the Upper Teeth

It has been estimated about 90 percent of patients who believed they had sinus headaches were told by their doctor they were experiencing migraine headaches instead. Migraine sufferers can have signs of congestion, nasal discharge, and facial pressure as part of their migraine head pain symptoms, which is why it can be confusing. Sinus headaches do not usually cause one to feel nauseated or have sensitivity to light, which are both commonly found in migraine headaches. Before a sinus headache begins, a person may have already had a cold or a viral upper respiratory infection. Sinus headaches can last for days or longer, whereas migraine headaches range from hours to a day or two.