Migraines and Headaches on the Pain Scale



Symptoms of Headaches can be a sharp, throbbing or dull pain, and develop suddenly or gradually over time. Migraines, tension, or sinus headaches are more painful than typical headaches and can include additional symptoms like nausea and fatigue.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches pound or throb, and affect the entire head or shift from side to side. Headache symptoms can include light, noise, or odor sensitivity, blurred vision, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, paleness, fatigue, dizzines, and warm or cold sensations.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches can range from mild to intense pain, and occur in the front, top, or sides of the head. Pain usually starts gradually in the middle of the day, and can last from minutes to days. Individuals can be irritable, have muscle aches, difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and sensitivity to light and noise.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches cause deep and constant pain in the forehead, nose, and cheekbones. The pain can intensify with sudden head movements or neck strain, and cause nasal discharge, clogged ears, fever, and facial swelling.


Most headaches are caused by mental overactivity or problems with pain-sensitive head structures. Pain can be caused by brain chemical activity, nerve or blood vessels, neck muscles injuries or genetic predisposition. Secondary head pain can be a disease symptom that is mild (flu), moderate (trigeminal neuralgia), or a serious (stroke) condition.


Patients have a variety of treatments to choose from including self or alternative care, medications, and therapies.

Self Care

Regular sleep, healthy foods, and exercise can help reduce headaches. Manage stress and pain with meditation, yoga, walking, and music. Avoid pain triggers like alcohol, certain foods, and poor posture.


Patients can take over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen or anti- inflammatory medications (ibuprofen or naproxen) to reduce mild to moderate pain. If that fails, physicians can treat pain with opioids (Codeine) or anticonvulsants , improve blood flow with beta blockers (Metoprolol), and affect serotonin with antidepressants or triptans .


Physicians might recommend acupuncture, massage, or talk therapy to help individuals cope and alleviate headache pain.

Visit Your Doctor

Visit a doctor if your headaches become more frequent, severe, and unaffected with OTC medications. See your physician immediately if you are unable to work, sleep, or do basic activities of daily living.

Seek Emergency Care

A headache can be a symptom of a serious condition like a stroke, aneurysm, or tumor. Go to an emergency room or call 911 if you are experiencing the worst headache of your life and are having difficulty seeing, speaking, walking, or are vomiting, have high fever, or numbness.

To learn more about headaches, please visit the Mayo Clinic & WebMD