What are the different types of headaches?

There are several different types of headaches, but the three most common types are:

Tension headache

Tension headaches are very common and cause mild to moderate pain. The pain is typically felt on both sides of the head and causes a dull ache or tightening sensation.


A migraine is a type of headache disorder and is often described as a pulsing or throbbing headache, typically on one side of the head, accompanied by sensitivity to light, noise, and smell, as well as nausea and vomiting. Migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours and can be triggered by various factors, including stress, certain foods, lack of sleep, and hormonal changes.

Cluster headache

Cluster headaches are considered one of the most painful types of headaches. They are characterised by severe, unilateral (one-sided) pain. Cluster headaches tend to occur in cycles, or "clusters," with several headaches occurring over several weeks, followed by a headache-free period of several months.

What can cause a severe headache?

  • Stress
  • Certain foods (such as aged cheeses, chocolate, alcohol or processed meats)
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Hormonal changes
  • Eye strain
  • Infections
  • For cluster headaches, certain triggers such as intense physical activity, alcohol consumption, or changes in the weather can precede an attack


We will conduct a thorough evaluation to ensure an accurate diagnosis. If a headache disorder is suspected, your doctor may arrange the following assessments to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Medical imaging

Your doctor may ask you to keep a headache diary to record the location of the pain, medication, type of pain, timing and other symptoms.

Neurology and neurosurgery

Get referred

To receive a diagnosis or treatment from an Epworth specialist, the first step is to schedule an appointment with your GP and request a referral.

Treatment and management

Your Epworth care team will collaborate with you and your family to plan the best approach to treatment and symptom management.

Common management of severe headaches could include:


Medication to prevent or reduce the symptoms of headaches may be prescribed.

Coordination and care

Your Epworth neurologist may arrange referrals to other specialists such as occupational therapists, psychologists or physiotherapists to support you with lifestyle modifications that may reduce your symptoms

Inpatient therapy for complex headache management

Inpatient therapy for complex headache management is designed to address severe or chronic headaches that have proven challenging to manage.

Ongoing management

Your Epworth care team will arrange follow-up appointments to assess treatment effectiveness and adjust treatment plans as needed.

Our locations

For cluster headaches and migraines

Your care team at Epworth

The multidisciplinary team for cluster headaches and migraines is led by a neurologist and may involve allied health professionals, such as an occupational therapist and psychologist.

Learn more about the health professionals in the neurology care team.

Neurology and neurosurgery

Choosing your Epworth specialist

Meet our specialist neurologists and neurosurgeons, accredited at Epworth.