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What is a Headache?

A headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck. Serious causes of headaches are extremely rare and most people with headaches can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning relaxation techniques and by occasionally taking medications. Types of headaches include tension headaches, cluster headaches, and classic or common migraine headaches. Classic migraines typically have warning signs, called auras. Common migraines, however, rarely feature auras.

Internet Resources

MedlinePlus: Headache
Developed by the National Library of Medicine specifically for consumers, this site is a portal for both government-sponsored and privately developed health information for the lay public.

MedlinePlus: Migraine Headache
This site includes an excellent interactive tutorial.

American Council for Headache Education
This is the home page of a not-for-profit patient and health professional partnership dedicated to advancing the treatment and management of headache, and to raising the public awareness of headache as a valid, biologically based illness. It includes special information about headaches in children and migraine in women.


  • Neurology for the non-neurologist. Weiner W. 2010
  • Migraine brain: your breakthrough guide to fewer headaches. Bernstein C. 2008.
  • Headaches. Olesen J, ed. 2006.
  • All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache. Kamen P. 2005.
  • Headaches. Sheen B. 2004.
  • Migraine and Other Headaches. Young WB. 2004.
  • Headache: Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine 2. v. 2:905-911. Longe J, ed. 2006.
  • Migraine Headache: Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. v. 3:2436-2439. Sharp K, ed. 2006.
  • Headache: Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders. v. 1:402-409. Chamberlin S, ed. 2005.
  • Headaches—Psychological Management: Encyclopedia of Health and Behavior. v. 2:466-471. Anderson N, ed. 2004.

Journal Articles

  • “Headaches in older adults: sorting out the cause.” Mayo Clinic Health Letter. 29(4):1-3. Apr. 2011
  • “Botox for migraines?” Harvard Health Letter. 35(6):7. Apr. 2010
  • “Headache: when to worry, what to do.” Harvard Men’s Health Watch. 13(11):5-8. Jun 2009.
  • “Migraines: treatments for pounding pain.” Mayo Clinic Health Letter. 25(9):1-3, Sept. 2007.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the  Health Learning Center  at 312-926-5465 or HLC@nmh.org.

Last UpdateDecember 21, 2011