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Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints nearly everyone gets a headache at some point. About one in six suffer chronic headaches each year.

Headaches therefore have a big economic impact,when you have a throbbing pain in your head, it's hard to work. The cost of these headaches in absenteeism and medical expenses is estimated as high as $50 billion per year.

A headache is a pain sensed in the nerves and muscles of the head and neck, as well as the meninges (the membranous coverings of the brain and spinal cord). Your brain itself cannot sense pain, so a headache has nothing to do with your brain hurting. It is really a pain somewhere around your brain, being picked up by nerve endings located in your head.

There are two main reasons why people get headaches, and doctors therefore classify headaches into two broad categories: primary and secondary.
Primary headaches are not associated with any underlying medical condition.

Secondary headaches are associated with medical conditions like infections, fever, head injury, hypoglycemia, tumors, dental conditions or increased pressure in the skull and/or sinuses (sinus headaches).

Primary headaches can also be caused by too much blood flow. For example, if you have read How Caffeine Works, you know that caffeine reduces blood flow in the brain. Some pain relievers contain caffeine to take advantage of this effect. If you have been taking caffeine every day and you stop, you can get an incredible headache because of the increased blood flow in your brain.

Secondary headaches result from some other problem with your body. For example, How Viruses Work talks about why you get a headache (and other pains) when you have the flu. Once you eliminate the disease, you eliminate the secondary headaches.

Most headache pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin) and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. As mentioned above, migraines have been helped by drugs that block serotonin, such as sumatriptan (Imitrex). Cluster headaches have been treated with sumatriptan, steroids (Migranal) and narcotics.