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Headache locations and their meanings: Headache Location Meaning and Treatment

Headache locations and what they mean

Are you experiencing frequent headaches?

Headaches are common in the following areas:

  • Across the forehead
  • Behind the eyes or on either side of your nose
  • On one side of the head
  • In the back of the head at the base of the skull

Forehead pain

Does your headache pain feel like a band squeezing your forehead? Most likely, you are experiencing the most common type of headache, a tension headache. This type of headache occurs when muscles become tense in your face, neck or shoulders. It can be triggered by holding your head in a single position for long periods, such as working on a computer or projects requiring fine work with your hands. It can also mean that you are under a lot of physical or emotional stress, using too much alcohol, caffeine or tobacco, or having withdrawals from limiting them. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can relieve tension headaches. Other stress relievers include massage, practicing yoga, exercising your neck gently, taking a hot shower or relaxing in a hot tub.

Eye pain or pain on either side of your nose

Headache pain around the eyes may be caused by eye strain from uncorrected vision or astigmatism, an imperfection in your eye that may cause blurriness. It can also be from stress, completing visual tasks or concentrating for long durations of time, or bad posture. Tips to reduce straining your eyes include practicing good posture when sitting at a desk, taking breaks from tasks that are visually demanding and using an anti-glare filter screen for your computer. See an ophthalmologist or optometrist if the eye strain headaches continue, as you may need glasses or contacts, or an update to your existing prescription.

An ocular or retinal migraine causes brief attacks of visual problems, such as flashes of light, zig zag lines or blind spots in the field of vision in one eye. They usually don’t last longer than 20 minutes. Relief options are OTC pain medications, resting your eyes, taking a break from screens and getting out of bright sunlight or harsh lights. Usually, the symptoms do not last long if you take away what triggers them. However, if they persist, see a provider. 

A sinus headache occurs when the sinus cavities, located in your forehead, inside your cheekbones and behind your nose, become inflamed and congested. Signs you may have a sinus infection are thick yellow or green drainage from the nose, postnasal drip or a cough. Sinus infections may or may not be accompanied by a fever. Sinus infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses, but most are viral, so antibiotics usually will not help. Generally, sinus infections resolve on their own. Using OTC pain relievers and rinsing your nose and sinuses with salt water several times a day with a neti pot can make you feel better. Nasal decongestants or antihistamines can help reduce congestion.

Pain on one side of the head

In addition to ocular migraines causing pain on one side of your head, cluster headache symptoms also involve pain on one side of your head or around one eye, often accompanied by  a drooping eyelid, tearing and congestion on the same side of the head.

A temple headache can occur on one or both sides of the head, and it can be a sharp, searing pain that continues for several days. The headaches are not life-threatening but may be painful enough to interfere with life and work.

Back of the skull pain

An occipital headache, or pain at the base of the skull, occurs when nerves in your upper back and neck radiating into the scalp are irritated and inflamed. The pain can be sharp and burning or happen in short bursts and may be associated with a migraine headache. You may also reduce symptoms by applying ice or heat to reduce pain and stiffness. Other treatments include stretching your neck, shoulder and back muscles to make them stronger, avoiding sitting in one position too long and taking steps to reduce stress.

Another headache in the back of the neck and head is cervicogenic headaches. They can be triggered by injury or wear and tear to the neck and cervical spine due to arthritis, compression of the spine, herniated discs between vertebrae or a concussion. The neck’s range of motion will likely be reduced. Several interventions that may help are physical therapy or nerve blocks.

Most headaches can be effectively managed with over-the-counter pain medications. Consult a healthcare provider if your headache comes on suddenly and is very painful, is associated with a blow to the head, is associated with confusion or balance issues, weakness or numbness, fever or seizures, or a stiff neck.

Clinically reviewed and updated by Nancy Kupka, PhD, RN, May 2022.


  1. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-ocular-migraine/
  2. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/pathophysiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-migraine-in-adults
  3.  https://medlineplus. gov/ency/article/000786.htm 
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000797.htm
  5. https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/locations/eau-claire/services-and-treatments/neurology/headaches
  6. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acute-sinusitis-and-rhinosinusitis-in-adults-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis?search=sinus%20headache&source=search_result&selectedTitle=3~87&usage_type=default&display_rank=3
  7.  https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cervicogenic-headache?search=Cervicogenic%20Headaches&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~10&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24784123/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507725/
  10. https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/ocular-migraine?sso=y

Headache Locations Meaning | Types of Headaches

What does the location of your headache mean? A headache in the front of your head may be caused by something different than a pain in your temples, in the back of your head, or right in the middle of your head. This article will explain headache locations and areas and what they tell you.

According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from headaches and of these, 28 million suffer from migraines.

What Do Your Headache Locations Mean?

There are several types of headaches; in fact, according to the National Headache Foundation, there are 150 different types of headaches. Looking at this headache chart and the content below, you can generally determine what type of headache you have depending on where exactly the pain is:

The most common headaches are migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. They can be the result of illness, injury, or a problem elsewhere in the body. They can also occur from stress and emotional tension, overexertion, or even dietary issues.

Headaches can be anything from harmless to dangerous. Here’s how to tell:

READ: Tension Headache 101

Headache Locations Meaning

Headache in the Front of your Head

  • Tension headache
  • Migraine
  • Eye strain
  • COVID headache
  • Sinus headache
  • Dehydration headache

Temples (side of your head)

  • Tension headaches
  • Ice-pick headache
  • Cervicogenic headache

Back of your Head

  • Cervicogenic headache
  • Tension headache
  • Dehydration headache


  • Tension-type headache
  • Ice pick headache
  • Cough headache
  • Exertion headache
  • Coital (intercourse) headache

One Side

  • Migraines
  • Cluster headaches

RELATED: Dangerous Headaches To Watch Out For

Types of Headaches and Locations

Cervicogenic headaches, one of the most common headache causes in the back of head. These headaches stem from the joints at the top of the neck.

Cluster headaches, which affect more men than women, are recurring headaches that occur in groups or cycles. They appear suddenly and are characterized by severe, debilitating pain on one side of the head, and are often accompanied by a watery eye and nasal congestion or a runny nose on the same side of the face.

COVID headache locations are something everyone is paying attention to nowadays due to the coronavirus. In some patients, the severe headache of COVID-19 only lasts a few days, while in others, it can last up to months. It is mostly felt around your whole head, with a severe-pressure type of pain. It’s different than migraine, which by definition is unilateral throbbing with sensitivity to light, sound, or nausea. This is more of a whole-head pressure presentation.

Coital headaches, also known as “sexual headaches,” occur at the base of the skull before orgasm during sexual activity. These headaches usually have an immediate onset, with some gradually worsening during sexual intercourse. They typically last for a few minutes to a few hours.

RELATED: Is Your Sex Life Giving You a Headache?

Dehydration headaches may occur at the front or back or just on one side of the head, or they may be felt throughout the entire head. Bending the head down or moving it from side to side often worsens the headache. Simply walking can cause more head pain.

Exertion headaches occur during or after sustained, strenuous exercise. Activities associated with exercise headaches include running, rowing, tennis, swimming and weightlifting.

Ice-pick headaches will often cause repeated sharp pains in the temples.

Migraines tend to cause one-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate-to-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activity. Additionally, nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound can accompany pain.

Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining. The pain is usually accompanied by other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, the feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.

READ: How To Treat Sinus Headaches

Tension headaches, the most common type of headache, feels like

The Latest In Headaches & Migraines

Treatment of headaches in the medical center “Clinic ABC”

Headache is more dangerous than people think!

Headache is a very common complaint that is not taken seriously by many people. It is important to recognize that ignoring a headache is extremely short-sighted, as it can be a symptom of a disease that tends to progress and impair quality of life.

Finding the cause of the headache

Diagnosis requires:

  • examination by a neurologist;
  • electroencephalography;
  • measurement of intracranial pressure with a slit lamp;
  • ultrasound scan of the vessels of the head and neck.

The most common diseases that cause headache include pathologies of the cervical spine, arteries of the neck and head, chronic inflammation of the maxillary sinuses, brain tumors. Also, injuries and unsuccessful neurosurgical operations often lead to headaches.

Types and locations of headaches

Pain that is localized in the occipital region, has a pressing dull character, may occur due to spasm of the muscles of the head and neck. This condition is provoked by prolonged stress, and can also serve as a sign of vegetovascular dystonia. Muscle tension can lead to compression of the occipital nerve. This condition, if left untreated, tends to worsen over time, causing pain and tension to increase.

Pain that is localized in the neck and radiates to the head (to the temporal region, to the eyes) may indicate osteochondrosis or an inflammatory process in the cervical vertebrae or sinuses.

Long-term neglect of the disease can lead to spasm of cerebral vessels, which complicates the process of oxygen and nutrients supply. Possible consequences: deterioration of hearing, vision, sleep disturbance, sexual weakness, headache, dizziness.

If the pain is evenly felt throughout the head, there is reason to assume increased intracranial pressure. This condition is characterized by an excess of cerebrospinal fluid that fills the cavities of the brain.

Without proper treatment, hearing impairment, fatigue, memory impairment are observed.

Throbbing pain that is migratory (temporal, eye) is migraine. The disease is considered rare and poorly understood. One of the versions of its pathogenesis is inflammation of the sinuses or cervical spine, in which the cerebral arteries are irritated, which leads to their sharp narrowing and expansion.

Migraine can lead to depression, brain function is not impaired.

Treatment of headaches

Before prescribing therapy, the doctor must find out the cause of the headache. Depending on the pathology, methods are used:

  • acupuncture;
  • conservative treatment;
  • surgery;
  • psychotherapy.

In case of repeated attacks of headache, contact the specialists of the ABC Clinic, who will competently make a diagnosis and prescribe effective treatment.

Living without a headache is pleasant, useful and achievable.

Primary source medical center “ABC Clinic”

Headache – the main diagnostic methods and the benefits of MRI

Headache, sleep disturbance, reduced level of performance of functional duties – common complaints of people of working age. A visit to the doctor should not be postponed, since such symptoms indicate diseases of various etiologies, including vascular damage, homeostasis disorders, and mental disorders.

Types of cephalalgia

If you have a headache, examinations are prescribed after a physical and neurological examination, as well as the results of laboratory and instrumental screenings. Most patients have primary forms — migraine and tension headache (EH). In other cases, “secondary” cephalgia is diagnosed, which are associated or appear due to systemic diseases. GB classification? is a multi-level list, however, the most common forms of cephalgia can be distinguished:

  • vascular;
  • muscle tension;
  • neuralgic;
  • psychological;
  • mixed;
  • cluster;
  • temporal arteritis;
  • paroxysmal hemicrania;
  • Pain caused by infection and injury.

Very often, headaches are caused by a combination of pathogenetic factors, in some cases, standard headache tests do not reveal the causes of poor health.

Basic diagnostic methods

What tests are prescribed for headaches? An atypical clinic, suspicion of a tumor or other morphological changes require a comprehensive MRI of the brain, as well as various types of ultrasound examinations, CT, angiography. In some situations, it may be necessary to consult narrow specialists: an ophthalmologist, an otolaryngologist, a dentist, a vascular surgeon.

Taking into account the multifactorial causes of GB? diagnostic measures are aimed at differentiation and exclusion of serious organic disorders: tumors, traumatic injuries, disorders of cerebral circulation, infectious and inflammatory processes. An important role is played by the detailing of complaints, the identification of trigger factors and heredity.

Comprehensive MRI of the brain – what does it show?

The technique includes the study of all structures: the ventricular system, the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum, the trunk, the pituitary gland. For headaches, complex MRI is performed in three projections, while the slice thickness is no more than 5 mm. In a native examination, brain structures are displayed in sagittal, axial and transverse projections.

The pituitary gland, temporal lobes, and other small structures require close examination using coronal planes with cuts no greater than 3 mm. If necessary, magnetic resonance imaging with a contrast agent is performed. The technique allows to visualize with high accuracy the locations and boundaries of the pathological focus, to assess the prevalence of the process. Indications for the diagnostic procedure are suspicions of the following diseases:

  • anatomical anomalies of the structure of the brain;
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • traumatic brain injury;
  • ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke;
  • tumors and cysts;
  • intracranial hypertension.

The images clearly visualize zones of ischemia, deformities of the pituitary gland, violations of the boundaries of white and gray matter, small focal hemorrhages, hyperplastic nerve endings.

Preparation and basic principles of diagnostics

The examination technology is based on the principles of magnetism and the phenomenon of resonant absorption of electromagnetic waves in a constant field of high intensity. The tomograph provides a stable position of charged particles and registers magnetic waves emanating from the patient’s body. All data is recorded and subjected to computer processing, after which the picture is visualized and displayed on the monitor.

If the head hurts, the examination is carried out without prior preparation, because early diagnosis plays a crucial role in emergency cases. Immediately before the procedure, the patient must remove all metal accessories, including clothing with fittings made of similar materials.

An exception is the complex MRI of the brain with the introduction of a contrast agent, which is not prescribed for patients with impaired renal function. A relative contraindication is pregnancy, chronic diseases in the acute stage.

Benefits of the procedure

It is obvious that the answer to the question: “What tests should be done if the head hurts?” The doctor’s answer will be the appointment of a comprehensive diagnosis, where the leading role is rightfully occupied by magnetic resonance imaging.