Headache - overview

What are headaches?

Headache affects nearly everyone at some point in their life. Fortunately, most headaches aren’t serious and can be easily treated with over-the-counter pain relief medicines, or lifestyle changes, such as eating regular meals or getting more sleep.

The majority of headaches — even bad headaches — are not due to any serious underlying health problem. Doctors sometimes call these 'primary headaches', meaning there is no secondary (other) cause.

Types of headache

The most common primary headaches are tension-type headache and migraine. To find out more about the symptoms and management of these common headaches, read our information on tension-type headache and migraine.

Cluster headache is a very painful type of primary headache that occurs much more rarely and almost exclusively affects men, and has specific symptoms.

Medication overuse headache is a form of chronic daily headache, brought on by the daily, or near daily, use of pain-relief medicine.

When should I consult a doctor?

Occasionally, however, headaches can become more worrying. If you get frequent, severe headaches that affect your ability to work or enjoy social activities, it is a good idea to visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and a management plan.

Read some signs and symptoms (‘red flags’) that may point to a more serious cause for your headache.