Headaches are common with a variety of possible symptoms. Some may be signs of a more serious underlying condition so understanding what you are feeling can be very helpful.


Regardless of the type of headache you are suffering, you will have some element of pain. This pain can range in severity from mild to debilitating. Pain may be located on one or both sides of the head and in some cases you may have pain in your neck and shoulders as well. You may feel a pulsating, throbbing pain or a squeezing feeling like your head is in a vice. Often this head pain worsened by certain activities. Noting how quickly the pain appears can also help in determining what type of headache you have.

Other Associated Symptoms

While a lot of headaches are simply head pain, many times you will experience other symptoms at the same time. You may experience nausea, with or without vomiting. Sometimes children have “abdominal migraines,” which involve nausea but no head pain. Sensitivity to light ( photophobia ) or sound ( phonophobia ) can also appear with a headache. In the case of cluster headaches, you may experience eye pain associated with watering and a stuffy nose. You may also have symptoms that appear before a headache known as an aura . Normally an aura affects your vision, but occasionally people will have weakness, a “pins and needles” sensation in one arm or leg, or speech problems. If this is the first time you are experiencing weakness or altered sensation in your limbs, discuss itimmediately with your physician since these symptoms can also be signs of stroke.

Sharing the various symptoms you may be experiencing along with your headache will help your healthcare provider diagnose you with a particular type of headache. This will aid in providing you with the best available treatment.

Warning Signs

Some headaches are due to more urgent medical conditions. If any of the following occur, call your physician:

  • Severe headache with stiff neck, vomiting, and light sensitivity
  • Headache following a head injury
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Any first headache lasting for more than 24 hours

As with any medical condition, discuss the symptoms you are having with your healthcare provider in order to make a proper diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatments.