Headaches | Migraines

If you experience a lot of headaches or they are causing severe pain, it is time to see your provider. MaineHealth providers can help evaluate your headaches and provide the right treatment, close to home.

Headache emergencies

Usually a headache is not a dangerous condition, but sometimes it can be a sign of a serious problem.  You should seek medical care immediately if you have:

  • A headache that comes on very suddenly (“thunderclap headache”)
  • Severe headache with fever and confusion
  • Headache with new neurological symptoms like weakness, numbness, difficulty walking
  • Severe headache after an injury

What are headaches?

Headaches might feel like a painful throbbing or like something tight is squeezing around your skull. There are many different types of headaches.

  • Tension headaches are common and feel like a tight band around your skull.
  • Migraines are severe headaches that can have other symptoms, like vomiting or sensitivity to light.
  • Cluster headaches cause sharp pain on one side of your head and watery eyes or a stuffy nose. 
  • Sinus headaches are pain or swelling in, around, or behind the sinuses near your eyes.
  • Daily or chronic headaches occur more than 15 days each month. They can be migraine or tension headaches.
  • Post-injury headaches are caused by a blow to the head such as a sports injury or car accident.

What are migraine headaches?

Migraines are severe headaches with additional symptoms like nausea or sensitivity to noise and light.  There are many types of migraines that can cause severe head pain. There is also a migraine that does not cause head pain. Instead these migraines cause stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting. They are more likely to affect children than adults. 

Headache Symptoms Vary


Headache symptoms differ depending on the headache type. Some symptoms of a headache are:

  • Mild pain on both sides of the head

  • Sharp pain on one side of the head

  • Muscle tightness in the neck or around your head

  • Pulsing or throbbing pain

  • Pain that gets worse when you move your head or body

  • Stuffiness in your head or nose or watery eyes

A migraine can cause severe symptoms that can be disabling like:

  • Severe headache

  • Nausea

  • Stomach pain

  • Vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light or sound

  • Some people have vision problems. They may see an aura or lights and lines. They may even lose their vision for a time. Sometimes these vision problems can be a warning sign that a migraine is coming.

  • Sometimes patients with migraines have weakness or numbness in the face or body


Identifying Headache & Migraine Triggers


Your provider can likely diagnose the cause of your headache by listening to your symptoms and doing a physical exam. Your provider may also check your movements, vision, and balance. If you have headaches often, it is helpful to try to identify if there is a trigger such as certain activities or foods that bring on a headache. If you can identify triggers you can try to avoid these. Keeping a diary of your daily activities and headache pain can help.

Your Provider May Prescribe Medication

See your provider about recurring headaches. It is important to find the reason for your headaches. Depending on the cause, your doctor may prescribe medication or advise you to take pain relievers. There are other things you can do to help ease the pain such as:

  • Lying down in a cool, dark room

  • Relaxation

  • Applying hot or cold packs to your head

  • Therapy to help control how you respond to pain, such as relaxing your muscles or lowering your heart rate

  • Therapy to help manage stress that can lead to headaches

You can also develop a plan to avoid the things that trigger your headaches and migraines.

Frequent Headaches? Keep a Diary

Keeping a diary about your headaches can help to prevent headaches in the future from coming back as often as they do.

Keeping Headache Diary Screenshot