21 unusual headache syndromes and their demystifying checklists

Headaches constitute the bulk of what neurologists see in their general clinics. Most people with headaches fall neatly into one of two categories, migraine or tension type headache (TTH). The neurology clinic may have a sprinkling of people with cluster headache or the hemicranias, two of the more common trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs). All these headaches are easy to recognise (most of the time), and easy to treat (until things get complicated).

By JD Fletcher – http://arowmaker.tripod.com/AROWMAKER/id6.html, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

There are other common and readily recognisable headaches in the neurology clinic. Such headaches include idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), medication overuse headache (MOH), chronic daily headache (CDH), post dural puncture headache (PLPH), and spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH).

Headache. Threephin on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/threephin/2309047966

Several headaches are however rare and peculiar, many unheard of by many neurologists. These are the headaches which prompt the neurologist to delve into the textbooks, or phone an expert headache specialist. What are these distinctive and curious entities? Here are neurochecklists’ most unusual headaches.

Aeroplane headache

Bathing headache

Epicrania fugax

Exploding head syndrome

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia



(headache and neurological deficits with CSF lymphocytosis)

Hypnic headache

Ice cream headache

Idiopathic stabbing headaches


(long-lasting autonomic symptoms with associated hemicrania)

By Mike Faherty, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Nummular headache

Occipital condyle syndrome 

Raeder’s paratrigeminal syndrome

Sexual headache


(short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing)

Lego headache. Matt Brown on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/15190891330

Space headache

Sphenopalatine neuralgia

Sunrise-related headache

TAC-TIC syndromes

Trochlear headaches 

Yawning headache

 Explore all of headaches on neurochecklists

Headache. Diego Fornero on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/destino2003/6689434475

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