Do You Have Chronic Headaches, Migraines or Tension Pain?

The head is one of the most common sites of pain in the body. Headache is defined as pain in any region of the head. Although there are many different types of headaches, they all cause pain. Some pain occurs on one or both sides of the head, can be isolated to a certain region of the head, radiates across the head, or feels like a vise around the head. Headaches are generally classified into primary, secondary or chronic headaches, each with its own causes, symptoms and treatments.

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Causes and Risk Factors

The most common primary headaches are:

  • Tension headaches
  • Cough headaches
  • Exercise headaches
  • Sex headaches
  • Hypnic headaches that awaken a person at night
  • Chronic daily headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Migraines

Risk factors associated with developing frequent headaches include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Obesity
  • Snoring
  • Overuse of caffeine
  • Overuse of pain medication
  • Repetitive physical postures that strain the neck or head

Secondary Headache

A secondary headache is a symptom of a disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. Any number of conditions can cause secondary headaches, including:

  • Arterial tears
  • Blood clot in the brain
  • Brain aneurism
  • Brain tumor
  • Concussion
  • Hangovers
  • Flu
  • Overuse of pain medication
  • Stroke
  • Sinus headaches

Chronic Daily Headaches

  • Chronic migraine: happen 15 days or more a month for at least three months.
  • Chronic tension-type headache: evolve from episodic tension-type headaches, and can last for hours or be constant.
  • New daily persistent headache: become constant within a few days of a person’s first headache.
  • Hemicranias continua: constant headaches on one side of the head that don’t shift sides.

Symptoms

There are as many symptoms of headaches as there are headaches. Symptoms of some of the most common types of headaches include:

Episodic Tension Headaches (Occur less than 15 days a month)

  • Pain that is mild to moderate
  • Pain that affects the front, top and sides of the head
  • Pain that often begins in the middle of the day

Chronic Tension Headaches (Occur more than 15 days a month)

  • Ever-present pain that may vary in intensity throughout the day
  • Pain that affects the front, top and sides of the head
  • Pain comes and goes over a prolonged period of time

Migraines

  • Moderate to severe pain that can affect the whole head or shift from one side of the head to the other.
  • Sensitivity to light, noise or odors
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Sensation of being very warm or cold

Cluster Headaches

  • Intense, one-sided pain with a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant
  • Pain locates behind one eye or in the eye region
  • Headache disappears and reappears later
  • Headaches occur very regularly, generally at the same time each day

Sinus Headaches

  • Deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose
  • Pain usually intensifies with sudden head movements or straining

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Diagnosis

To properly diagnose a headache, physical and neurological exams are usually necessary. During the physical examination, your pain specialist will look for symptoms that include:

  • Fever or abnormalities in breathing, pulse or blood pressure
  • Infection
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Speech difficulties
  • Balance problems and falling
  • Dizziness
  • Vision changes

Neurological tests can be used to rule out disease of the brain or nerves that may also cause headaches. Your pain specialist can look for physical or structural abnormality in the brain, including:

  • Tumor
  • Abscess
  • Hemorrhage
  • Bacterial or viral meningitis
  • Blood clots
  • Blood vessel abnormalities
  • Injuries
  • Head trauma

Other tests can be used to diagnose the source of certain headaches:

  • Blood chemistry and urinalysis tests can help determine a number of medical conditions that can cause headaches, including diabetes, thyroid problems and infections.
  • CT scans and MRIs can be used to evaluate certain parts of the brain that may be causing headaches
    An eye pressure test can help rule out glaucoma or pressure on the optic nerve as a cause of headaches

Treatment Options

At PMIR Medical Center, we understand that pain is a complex condition that affects the whole person—body, mind and spirit. We provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treatment, customizing the most effective treatment plans for our patients and empowering them to become a collaborative partner in their recovery process.

At PMIR, headache treatment begins by treating the underlying disease or condition that is causing the headache, if applicable.

Our treatment options for headache include:

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