General Health

A Complete Guide to Headaches: Causes, Home Remedies, and Red Flags

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on - 23 September 2022, Updated on - 01 June 2023

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Headaches in India are so common that every one in two people claims to be suffering from it. However, an interesting thing about headaches is that no two headaches are the same.

As you would have experienced, sometimes it's a striking pain in just the centre of your head, at others, the pain stretches as a band across your head. At times, the pain is only around your eyes, at others, it is as if a hammer struck through half the head. This shift in the very experience of headaches testifies to the many different types of headaches and the reason why the same OTC medicine or balm may not work for you all the time.

Read on as this blog enlists everything about headaches, their different types, causes, symptoms, home remedies, red flags, when to consult a doctor, and more.

What is a Headache?

A headache is a discomfort or pain in the head or face triggered due to a wide range of causes like hunger, stress and gas, extending to more serious health conditions like meningitis, brain stroke, epilepsy, head injury or tumour.

For either reason, head pain results from the signals interacting among the brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerves. Reportedly, an unknown mechanism activates specific nerves that in turn affect muscles and blood vessels, eventually lending pain signals to the brain.

Since each episode of headache varies vastly based on the location of the pain, its intensity, if it appears suddenly or with accompanying symptoms, the time of the day it occurs, and how long it lasts, the treatment varies too.

Also read: When should headache worry you?

Treatment for mild headaches is thus relatively easy with certain home remedies, rest, and over-the-counter pain medications. Severe or unusual headaches may require deeper medical evaluation and clinical treatment.

Types and Causes of Headaches

Here is a list of 10 types and causes of headaches for easy diagnoses and effective home remedies. However, if you experience any of the red-flagged symptoms, please discontinue the remedies and consult the suggested doctors immediately. You may warrant immediate medical intervention.

1. Headaches from Excessive Strain on Eyes


Cause: Most people today spend their days in front of their laptops. Excessive workloads and uncontrolled screen times are the most common reasons for eye strain, resulting in headaches.

Symptoms: These headaches usually occur around the eyebrows, upper eyelids, and corners of the forehead.

Home Remedies: The best way to deal with eye pain and headache from screened devices is to take frequent breaks from the screen, walk around, stretch a little, stay hydrated and get a hot cup of tea or coffee. You could also try putting cold packs on your eyes, eye massages, warm compress for dry eyes, or cold water sprays to increase blood circulation.

Red Flags: If the headache lasts longer than a day or, appears too frequently than usual, it may be a sign of refractive error (that is, you may need glasses)

Therefore, consult an ophthalmologist immediately.

2. Gas and Acidity-Related Headache


Cause: Some people are more sensitive to digestive issues and experience headaches and migraines due to acid reflux and gas. GERD is the most common cause of acidity-related headaches.

Symptoms: This type of headache is often accompanied by burning in the stomach, indigestion, heartburn and chest pain.

Home Remedies: Sipping cold milk mixed with an equal proportion of water, or drinking a glass of asafoetida-rich buttermilk is the best way to relieve a gas headache naturally. A few other Indian home remedies for gas-related headaches include-

  1. Mix a teaspoon of carom seeds (ajwain) with a teaspoon of dry ginger powder (saunth) and have it with a pinch of black salt and water.
  2. Have half a teaspoon of asafoetida (heeng) or dry ginger powder (saunth) with lukewarm water.
  3. Boil a teaspoon of cumin seeds (jeera) in approx 2-3 cups of water and have it sip-by-sip as it slowly cools down.

In case you do not experience relief from the above remedies, or the same is not readily available, note that you can also try a few stretching exercises, or practice certain yoga poses such as pawanmuktasana, balasana, or paschimottanasana to help relieve gas and the related headache. 

Look at the following image for reference.


Red Flags: If the headache does not resolve with these home remedies, and rather continues to worsen with excessive vomiting, blackouts or weakness, consult a gastroenterologist or physician at the earliest

3. Tension Headache


Cause: "Saridon Headache Report" marked tension headaches as the most common reason for headaches in urban India, accounting for more than 90% of people suffering from it. It largely results from the stress that tightens the muscles around the head, and this stress could be rooted in anything from work pressure to management of finances, household troubles and more.

Symptoms: A few common symptoms of tension headaches include slow onset, head hurting on both sides, a dull pain that feels like a band around the head, and mild to moderate intensity headaches. However, note that this type of headache does not cause nausea or vomiting.

Home Remedies: Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually effective in treating tension headaches. However, ensure that you limit this intake to only when absolutely necessary and rather incorporate lifestyle changes like guided meditation, conscious distraction, breathing exercises, or a swift walk in the open air.

Warning: Unmonitored or extremely frequent use of OTC medications can potentially develop an extended tolerance for these medicinal salts, leading to a raised dependency and addiction. That is, with time, you may experience a similar relief only with a higher and regular dosage. Gas, constipation, nausea, weakened immunity and excessive sweating remain the other common side effects.

Identifying triggers that cause tension headaches and preventing them from the onset is a rather effective approach.

Red Flags: If you experience frequent tension headaches or a continuous rise in intensity or dependency on medication, consult a physician the earliest possible. A doctor specialising in pain management, also known as a pain specialist is another recommended choice.

4. Migraine

Cause: While the exact cause of migraine remains uncertain, genetic tendency and environmental triggers like stress, lack of sleep, improper diet, loud noise, flashy lights, and certain foods like chocolates, coffee and red wine may particularly trigger a sudden onset.

Warning: While migraine is the third most common disabling disease worldwide and causes a pulsating or throbbing headache, misdiagnosis of this condition remains a common denominator. Note that, every headache is not a migraine and migraine itself is of many kinds where each episode may manifest differently. Therefore, doctor discretion is advised at the earliest.

Symptoms: Migraine headaches usually occur on one side of the head but can switch sides. Other migraine symptoms are light-headedness, sensory disturbances, sensitivity to sounds or light, and nausea. 

Home Remedies: No home remedy or OTC medication has particularly proved effective once the migraine triggers. However, a paracetamol and optimum hydration may help lower the intensity of pain. In case of nausea, keeping a bit of tamarind below your tongue and slowly chewing it for some time may help bring relief.

Nevertheless, identifying the trigger points and avoiding stress, gastric food, loud music and flashy light can positively help prevent the migraine altogether.

Red Flags: If you have trouble managing your migraine or are experiencing severe symptoms, consult a doctor immediately! Migraine is best treated only through accurate diagnosis, regular medication and strict lifestyle changes. 

We particularly recommend consulting a pain specialist for effective treatment.

5. COVID-Related Headache


Cause: Headache due to COVID-19 may particularly occur due to fever, weakness and other unknown causes. Along with this, you may also experience insomnia and recurrent gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Symptoms: Headache is one of the most common neurological symptoms of Covid-19 and affects both sides of the head.

Home Remedies: This headache was found to be resistant to OTC pain relievers and  other home remedies. 

Red Flags: Consult your doctor at the earliest symptom of COVID-19. Also, practice self-isolation until the reports turn negative.

6. New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH)

Cause: The common causes of chronic daily persistent headaches are reported to be chronic migraine, chronic tension-type headache and hemicrania continua.

Symptoms: A sudden onset of headache for at least 24 hours is characteristic of NDPH. This pain is similar to a migraine and occurs on both sides of the head. These rare headaches are the most treatment-refractory primary headache disorders that disturb an individual’s daily routine.

Home Remedies: Similar to migraine, NDPH marks no relief on home remedies or OTC medications. Only a physician may prescribe you suitable medications to ease pain, including antiseizure drugs, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).

Red Flag: NDPH is a red flag in itself. Consult your physician at the earliest. 

7. Headache Because of Sinus Congestion


Cause: Viral or bacterial cold and flu, and allergies are the most common reasons behind congested sinuses and associated headaches.

Symptoms: Sinus headaches are usually acute and develop quickly. They are expected over the forehead, around the eyes, nose, cheek and sometimes, the upper teeth. Thick nasal discharge, congestion, and fever accompany these headaches. As soon as the infection resolves, so does the headache. Note that, sinus headaches do not cause recurrent or chronic headaches.

Home Remedies: Steam inhalation, appropriate medications, and plenty of rest help resolve sinus headaches. You can also try the following time-tested Indian home remedies for sinus:

  1. Grate half a teaspoon of fresh ginger and mix it with a bit of jaggery powder. Warm it slightly before consuming it bit-by-bit in small amounts.
  2. Take half a teaspoon of fresh ginger juice and have it with desi shahad (honey).
  3. Rub a bit of eucalyptus oil on your forehead and chest. If needed, you can also mix it in your steamer for steam inhalation. 

Red Flags: Consult a physician if sinus headaches appear to last longer or come more frequently.

8. Headache from High BP

Cause: People with very high blood pressure complain of headaches. A hypertensive crisis is an emergency during which people with exceptionally high blood pressure also have nosebleeds.

Symptoms: Hypertensive headaches are more likely to affect the forehead, around the eyes and front of the face.

Home Remedies: As soon as you experience a hike in BP, it is advisable to take a break from whatever you are doing and consciously practice slow breathing. You can also try having honey water, citric fruits, or coconut water mixed with double the proportion of orange juice. In case you are experiencing a nosebleed, elevate your head slightly with your face towards the sky. Rest until the same surpasses. 

In case home remedies are not available, taking a walk in the open air, sniffing a calming oil, or a relaxing hot shower may also turn helpful. However, note that immediate relief may only be brought through OTC painkillers and rest.

Red Flags: High BP patients are also at an increased risk of stroke. Therefore, it is always advisable to consult a doctor at the earliest.

9. Trauma Headache

Cause: Headache is a prevalent symptom following head trauma such as concussion. The headache that appears in the first seven days after trauma is post-traumatic headache.

Symptoms: Trauma headaches are usually pulsating in nature and may accompany nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fainting.

Home Remedies: No home remedies prove effective on trauma headaches.

Red Flags: Trauma headaches, if left untreated may not only cause a throbbing headache but also trigger memory problems and sensitivity to light and sound. You may also experience trouble converting and have extreme mood swings. Doctor intervention is advised at the earliest.

10. Tumour Headache

Cause: Headaches are often the first signs of brain tumours. When brain cancer starts to grow, it increases intracranial pressure, resulting in headaches.

Symptoms: Headaches due to tumours are dependent on their location and size. Other symptoms like dizziness, vision issues, nausea, vomiting and sometimes, loss of consciousness accompany headaches due to tumours.

Home Remedies: Tumour headaches cannot be managed with home remedies.

Red Flags: Immediate medical attention is advised in case you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Key Takeaway

Headaches are of many kinds, with each episode varying from the other on the pain location, symptoms, intensity and causes. This is why, a deeper insight into causes, can effectively help you manage and prevent the onset of the same.

Typically, headaches are a common symptom of many diseases and sometimes may indicate that the body needs some rest. However, persistent, chronic, and frequent headaches must not be ignored and evaluated at the earliest possible.

Consult an Apollo Expert Now

Our doctors are available for both online and in-clinic consultations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Headaches

1. What are the causes of frequent headaches?

A few causes of frequent headaches include anxiety, depression, obesity, sleep disturbances, excessive consumption of caffeine, and stress.

2. Can gas cause headaches?

Yes, excessive gas and flatulence can result in dizziness and headaches.

3. What causes headaches and dizziness every day?

If people are experiencing headaches and dizziness every day, it may be due to migraine, head pressure, a tumour or infection, or a brain injury.

4. Can acidity cause headaches?

Yes, acidity and acid reflux can cause headaches.

5. Can masturbation cause headaches?

Yes, some people experience headaches before or after orgasm. A dull ache develops in the head and neck region as sexual excitement increases.

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