A Historical Review of Headaches: Who First Described Them and When did This Occur?

Wallyson Pablo de Oliveira Souza; Patrick Mesquita Sousa-Santos; Raimundo Pereira Silva-Néto, MD, MSc, PhD


Headache. 2020;60(8):1535-1541. 

In This Article

Secondary Headaches

Headache Attributed to Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension

Headache attributed to idiopathic intracranial hypertension is a neurological disorder, usually of unknown cause, characterized by increased CSF pressure, in the absence of an expansive intracranial process or enlargement of the ventricles.[3]

Two neurologists, a German, Max Nonne in 1904, and another English, John Foley in 1955 coined the terms pseudotumor cerebri and benign intracranial hypertension, respectively, to describe patients with elevated intracranial pressure in which no tumor was found and whose course was considered relatively benign.[38,39] These concepts were only possible after the introduction of the lumbar puncture technique that developed by the German Heinrich Quincke Irineu (1842–1922) in 1893 and by Walter Essex Wynter (1860–1945) for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.[40]

High-altitude Headache

High-altitude headache is characterized by a headache, usually bilateral, and aggravated by exertion, caused by ascent above 2500 meters. It resolves spontaneously within 24 hours after a descent.[3] Possibly, this headache was first described in the year 32 BC, as narrated by the book Tseen Han Shoo which includes the crossing of the Hindu Kush mountain range, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the highest point at 7708 meters.[41]

Headache Attributed to Airplane Travel

Headache attributed to air travel was first described in 2004 by 2 Canadians, the oncologist Victoria Atkinson and the neurologist Liesly Lee.[42] It is a rare form of headache disorder that develops exclusively during air travel. The onset of the pain occurs during takeoff, landing or both.[43] This headache is characterized by being a severe intensity headache with at least 2 of the following 3 characteristics: unilateral location, orbitofrontal, and jabbing or stabbing quality, but pulsation may also occur. It improves spontaneously within 30 minutes after the ascent or descent of the aircraft is completed.[3]

Dialysis Headache

Dialysis headache is a headache with no specific characteristics occurring during and caused by hemodialysis, spontaneously resolved within 72 hours after the hemodialysis session has ended.[3] It was first described in 1972 by the American neurologists Dhirendra Bana et al.[44]

Bath-related Headache

Bath-related headache was first described in 2000 by Japanese neurologist Kiyoshi Negoro et al., with the name of benign hot bath-related headache,[45] but in 2003, Liao et al. suggested the term bathing headache.[46] This is a rare headache disorder that is characterized by its development, while the patient is bathing in hot water or being immersed in a hot bath. There is not yet a diagnostic criterion for bath-related headache and it has not been described in the ICHD-3.[3]