Headache is one of the most common forms of neurological disorder. Everyone can probably remember the time they’ve had a painful headache, but thankfully most of us don’t experience them to a chronic level on a regular basis. Headache can become problematic though, and some people experience significant or chronic pain linked to headaches.

As an isolated symptom, headaches are very rarely caused by tumours or a ‘serious’ underlying disease. Nevertheless, it can often be a sign of another problem or a treatable condition. Visiting your GP and getting a neurology referral is a natural next step.

Migraines affect around 15% of the UK adult population. In any one day, up to 100,000 people are absent from work or school in the UK. This represents an enormous cost burden to employers as well as being disruptive to day to day life.

Different types of headache

Medical professionals classify headaches in different ways. Primary headaches describes headaches which are not caused by an abnormality such as a tumour or a trigger such as trauma or a head injury. The most common forms of primary headache are migraines and tension headaches.


Migraine usually affect one side of the body and brain. Patients experience a severe throbbing pain and also accompanying nausea. The discomfort during a migraine often becomes worse when exposed to bright light or loud noises. Migraines are usually long and drawn out, lasting from a few hours to a few days and there are often other unpleasant symptoms too.

Migraine can also cause nausea and severe pain when presented with bright light. Time off work and rest may be necessary to overcome a migraine.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are common and affect most people now and again. You do not usually need to visit a doctor for this kind of headache.

However, tension headaches can last over several hours and can be disabling for short periods of time. Over-the-counter medications are generally effective for managing the pain of a tension headache.

Persistent Headaches and Medical Treatment

Visiting a neurologist is a good idea if you regularly experienced unmanageable or chronic headaches. A neurologist can help you determine the cause of your headaches and find an appropriate treatment. Even if you are unable to find a neurological diagnosis for your headaches, you can rule out any more serious neurological conditions.

Dr Dominic Paviour is a consultant neurologist with busy NHS and private practices in London. He advises, treats and supports many patients with neurological conditions and symptoms including headache. You can get in touch to arrange an appointment to discuss your headaches here.