Types of Headaches: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Different Types of Headaches

Reviewed by Dr. Shankar Rao

different types of headaches - livayur

Headaches are a common ailment that can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. They can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, and understanding the different types of headaches is crucial in identifying the causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatments for each type. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various types of headaches, including tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and Cervicogenic headaches, providing valuable insights to help you better understand and manage them.

Different Types of Headaches

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches also referred to as Vataja Shira Shoola in Ayurveda is the most common type of headache experienced by people. They are typically characterized by a dull, aching pain that wraps around the head, often described as a tight band or pressure-like sensation. They usually do not come with additional symptoms. [1] [2]

Causes: Tension headaches can be caused by various factors, including stress, muscle tension, poor posture, and lack of sleep. [1]

Treatment: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often effective in managing them.[1] Ayurvedic treatments are prescribed based on the individual needs of the patient based on Doshas and can include preparations like Drakshadi Kashaya, Aswagandha Leha and Manasamitraka Gutika. [2]


Migraines, also known as Ardhavabhedaka in Ayurveda are a type of headache that is often more severe than tension headaches and can be accompanied by other symptoms. Migraines are characterized by throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances such as aura. Migraines can last for hours to days and can significantly impact daily activities. [3] [4]

Causes: The exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. Ayurveda attributes Migraines to an imbalance in the doshas, particularly the Vata and Pitta Doshas. [3] [4]

Treatment: Treatment for migraines may include medication to alleviate symptoms, lifestyle changes, and avoiding triggers. Ayurvedic treatment also involves identifying and avoiding the triggers as well as balancing the Pitta and Vata doshas, and strengthening the nervous system. Ayurvedic remedies such as herbal decoctions, nasal drops, and head massage with cooling oils can be beneficial in managing migraines.[3] [4]

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are a rare type of headache that is known for their severe, debilitating pain that occurs in clusters or episodes, usually lasting for weeks to months and then subsiding for a period of time. Cluster headaches are characterized by intense pain on one side of the head, often around the eye, along with other symptoms such as nasal congestion, tearing, and restlessness. [5]

Causes: The exact cause of cluster headaches is yet to be completely known, but it is believed to involve abnormal activity in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates body functions. [5]

Treatment: Treatment for cluster headaches may include medication to alleviate symptoms and prevent future episodes. [5]

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are associated with inflammation of the sinuses, which are air-filled spaces in the facial bones. Sinus headaches are usually characterized by deep, constant pain in the front of the head or around the eyes, along with symptoms such as nasal congestion, facial pressure, and a thick nasal discharge. [6]

Causes: Sinus headaches are often caused by sinusitis, which is an infection or inflammation of the sinuses due to a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. [6]

Treatment: Treatment for sinus headaches may include medication to relieve pain and inflammation, antibiotics if there is an infection, and decongestants to alleviate nasal congestion.[6]

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are headaches that are caused by problems in the cervical spine, which is the neck region of the spine. Cervicogenic headaches are typically characterised by pain that starts in the neck and then radiates to the head, often on one side, along with other symptoms such as neck pain, shoulder pain, and limited neck movement.[7]

Causes: Cervicogenic headaches can be caused by various conditions, including cervical disc herniation, whiplash injuries, and degenerative changes in the cervical spine. [7]

Treatment: Treatment for Cervicogenic headaches may include physical therapy, pain medication, and addressing the underlying cervical spine issue. [7]

It is important to note the modern medicine and ayurvedic treatments mentioned above for the respective types of headaches should not be initiated without consulting a medical professional to avoid any unwanted complications.


1. Can Ayurveda help with all types of headaches?
Ayurveda provides a holistic approach to managing headaches, including various types such as Vataja, Pittaja, Kaphaja, Suryavarta, and Shirothamam. However, it is important to consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner for a proper diagnosis and individualized treatment plan based on your specific condition.

2. What are some commonly used Ayurvedic herbs for managing headaches?
Ayurvedic herbs such as Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Jatamansi, and Dashamoola are known for their calming and balancing properties and can be beneficial in managing headaches. However, it is important to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before taking any herbs to ensure proper dosage and safety.

3. Can Ayurveda be used in conjunction with modern medical treatments for headaches?
Yes, Ayurveda can be used in conjunction with modern medical treatments for headaches. However, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider and inform them about any Ayurvedic remedies or therapies you are using to ensure the safe and effective management of headaches.

4. Can Ayurveda help in preventing recurrent migraines?
Yes, Ayurveda can help in preventing recurrent migraines through a combination of lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, herbal remedies, and Ayurvedic therapies. Identifying and avoiding triggers, balancing the doshas, and improving overall health and well-being can be beneficial in preventing migraines.

5. Are there any side effects of Ayurvedic treatments for headaches?
Ayurvedic treatments for headaches generally have minimal side effects when used appropriately under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. However, it is important to follow the recommended dosage, duration, and precautions for herbal remedies, therapies, and dietary modifications to avoid any potential adverse effects. It is also essential to inform your healthcare provider of any existing health conditions or medications you are taking to ensure the safe and effective use of Ayurvedic treatments.


Headaches can vary in type, severity, and symptoms, and understanding the different types of headaches is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment approach. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Proper management of headaches can significantly improve the quality of life and reduce the impact of headaches on daily activities.

Disclaimer: This article is only for providing general information regarding the different types of headaches. Kindly seek the assistance of a trained medical practitioner for diagnosis and treatment before incorporating any of the mentioned treatments into your daily routine.


  1. Tension type headache – PMC (nih.gov)
  2. Ayurvedic management of Vataja Shira Shoola (tension headache) – A Case Study | Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medical Sciences (jaims.in)
  3. Migraine — Current Understanding and Treatment (researchgate.net)
  4. An Ayurvedic Management Of Ardhavabhedaka(Migraine) – A Review Article
  5. Cluster headaches – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
  6. Sinus Headache – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
  7. Cervicogenic Headache: A Review of Diagnostic and Treatment Strategies (archive.org)

Dr. Shankar Rao

Dr. Rao has achieved great success in his career, with 5 research projects and 4 books to his credit, as well as a Monograph. In addition to receiving the Bharat Scout & Guide Award from the President of India, Dr Rao has also won the Young Scientist Award from S.V. University, Tirupati.