Acute Headache


4.7 out of 5 (69 Reviews)



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Expiration Date

28 Feb 2026

Last Reviewed

1 Mar 2023

Estimated Time To Finish

60 Minutes

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Activity Description

Headache is a nearly universal complaint. Most headaches are benign, and most patients can be safely treated and discharged with minimal workup. However, many serious and life-threatening conditions may present with headaches. Recognition, evaluation, and appropriate management of these dangerous secondary headaches are critical to preventing long-term disability or death. This activity describes the assessment and medical management of headaches in the emergency department and highlights the role of the interprofessional team in assessing and appropriately treating patients with this chief complaint, with specific emphasis on differentiating benign from concerning presentations.

Target Audience

This activity has been designed to meet the educational needs of physicians.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, the learner will be better able to:

  • Review the etiology of common causes of headaches.
  • Outline the important exam findings of headaches.
  • Describe a management strategy for the treatment of headaches in the emergency department.
  • Summarize interprofessional team strategies for the identification of life-threatening versus benign causes of headaches to improve patient outcomes.


StatPearls requires everyone who influences the content of an educational activity to disclose relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies that have occurred within the past 24 months. All relevant conflict(s) of interest have been mitigated. Hover over contributor names for financial disclosures. None of the planners of this educational activity have any relevant financial relationships to disclose.

COMMERCIAL SUPPORT: This activity has received NO commercial support.

Continuing Education Accreditation Information

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of the Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, and StatPearls, LLC. The Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University designates this activity for a maximum of 1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This activity is reported to the following Maintenance of Certification (MOC) boards:
American Board of Anesthesiology
  • Neuro Anesthesia
  • Pain Medicine
American Board of Internal Medicine
  • Adolescent Medicine
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Internal Medicine
American Board of Pathology
  • Cardiovascular
  • Chemical Pathology
  • Clinical Pathology
  • Cytopathology
  • Hematology (Blood, BM)
  • Neuropathology (incl. Neuromuscular)
American Board of Pediatrics
  • General Pediatrics
  • Medical Toxicology
  • Pediatric Cardiology
  • Pediatric Neurology

Instructions for Credit

  1. Register for the activity and create a StatPearls login.     
  2. Review the target audience, learning objectives, and disclosure information.
  3. Study the educational content in the activity.
  4. Choose the best answer to each activity test question. To receive credit, you must pass the test questions with a minimum score of 100%.
  5. Complete the post-activity assessment.
  6. Obtain a certificate.

For information on the applicability and acceptance of continuing education credit for this activity, please consult your professional licensing board.


Faculty may discuss investigational products or off-label uses of products regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Readers should verify all information before employing any therapies described in this educational activity.

The information provided for this activity is for continuing education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical/clinical judgment of a healthcare provider relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient’s medical condition. The information presented does not necessarily reflect the views of StatPearls or any commercial supporters of educational activities on StatPearls specifically disclaims responsibility for any adverse consequences resulting directly or indirectly from information in the course, for undetected error, or through a participant's misunderstanding of the content.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be received in writing and a money-back guarantee is provided if not completely satisfied.

  • StatPearlsand and Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University reserve the right to cancel any course due to unforeseen circumstances. StatPearls andQuillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University will not be responsible for other expenses incurred by the participant in the unlikely event that the program is canceled.

Medium or Media Used:

  • Computer Requirements: Internet Access
  • E-mail Address

Equal Opportunity

  • StatPearls andQuillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University are Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action/Equal Access Institutions. 


Media Usage Rights

The contributors and editors of StatPearls have attested that all associated media (images and video) have been legally cleared for use with this activity.  All copyrights are reserved.


    Deborah Z. on 1/18/2021

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    Jack D. on 10/23/2022

    Excellent! Thank you!

    lee a. on 10/4/2021

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    kevin n. on 1/16/2023

    David R. on 1/21/2023

    Daniel S. on 1/22/2023

    under tension headache is listed signs like horners syndrome. never seen that with tension headache. maybe cluster?

    peter h. on 1/27/2023

    Michael B. on 2/16/2023

    Julie E. on 3/9/2023

    Charles H. on 3/14/2023

    adeel s. on 3/24/2023

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