Headaches are one of the most common adult health problems. Headaches have many causes, including:

  • Muscle strain in the neck, upper back, or shoulder muscles
  • Emotional stress
  • Certain medications
  • Eating or drinking cold foods and fluids
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Eye strain
  • Alcohol, caffeine, or other drug use or withdrawal
  • Exposure to smoke or fumes from chemicals, including carbon monoxide
  • Medical procedures, such as the aftereffects of a lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Dental problems or procedures, such as pain from grinding the teeth or from a root canal
  • Changes in the levels of chemicals in the body (neurotransmitters)
  • The most common types of headaches usually are not serious but may occur again and again

Different Types of Headaches


Tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache. Most adults have tension headaches from time to time. See an illustration of possible areas of pain from a tension headache.

Other Common Headache Types:

Headache Types
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Sinus Headaches

Children and teenagers often have headaches along with sore throats, colds, sinus problems, or other infections. They also may have tension headaches from stress and emotional strain. Approximately one-third of people who have migraine headaches first began having them as teenagers.

Although rare, headaches in adults or children may be a sign of a serious illness. Other symptoms, such as vomiting, dizziness, or changes in vision, may also be present. Some serious illnesses or injuries that can cause headaches include: brain tumors a head injury that causes injury to the brain, fracture of the skull, or bleeding in or around the brain. Such as a concussion. See illustration below.