How headaches occur
There are two broad categories of headaches: primary and secondary headaches. Primary headaches are further divided into characteristics such as tension-type, migraine, stabbing, cluster, and so on.
On the other hand, secondary headaches are headaches triggered by a separate disease or illness. Infections, head trauma, and brain tumors can all cause secondary headaches.
While the brain itself does not contain pain receptors, it is responsible for receiving all pain-related signals from other parts of the body and the meninges. The meninges are layers of membranes that cover and protect the brain. It is extremely sensitive to changes in pressure and irritating substances.
Headaches occur when the vessels or meninges surrounding the brain are stretched or damaged. In addition, muscles around the neck and skull can also induce headaches. Dehydration, meningitis, and brain tumors can all trigger secondary headaches as they progress. Certain medications and even low blood sugar may also trigger a headache.
What makes a thunderclap headache different?
While each headache has its own characteristics, they tend to be tolerable and predictable. For example, if you feel your forehead muscles tensing you may expect a tension headache approaching. While many migraine sufferers experience an aura before the pain hits.
However, a thunderclap headache happens without warning and peaks within a minute. It is usually a type of secondary headache, so the underlying cause should be investigated immediately.