Every year, 50% of the world’s adult population suffers from some type of headache pain at least once (and usually much more often than that). That’s over three billion people in pain. Headache pain is the most widespread and common human ailments across the globe. Here’s what you should know about its causes and how we can help treat it at Alliance Pain Solutions.
What causes headache pain?
Headaches can be absolutely debilitating for sufferers, but what causes them? We know that they don’t originate in the brain or the skull because no nerves are there.
Headache pain can be classified into five basic types of headaches, each with their own triggers or causes.
1. Tension headaches
Of course tension headaches are number one on our list. More than three million people in the U.S suffer from this common headache.
Almost everyone can relate to the primary cause of tension headaches: stress.
Stress causes tension in the jaw, neck, and shoulders. Combined with usually poor posture and lack of sleep (or lack of quality sleep), the primary symptom of tension headaches is pain on both sides of your head. You’ll also usually feel muscle pain in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Sufferers may also feel pressure across their head as well.
2. Cervicogenic headache
Unlike a tension headache, which is considered a primary headache caused only by itself, cervicogenic head pain is classified as a secondary headache (a symptom of another condition).
In this case, the other condition is usually some type of disorder or deterioration in the area where your cervical spine and the skull connect. This is not simple neck pain. There must be clear physical evidence of a headache-producing lesion in this region to diagnose this type of headache.
3. Sinus headache
Of the 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from allergies, approximately three million of them also suffer from a sinus headache.
This headache causes pain and pressure across the cheeks (under the eyes) and forehead, right where the sinus cavity is located. You don’t need to suffer from allergies to experience this type of headache, though.
When you have a cold, excess mucus in the sinus cavity can become inflamed, causing the pain and pressure of a sinus headache. This is usually accompanied by a runny or stuffy nose, facial pain, and nasal congestion.
4. Cluster headaches
The first three types of headaches are often relieved by at-home treatments, but the last two usually require more direct medical intervention.
Cluster headaches are a severe and serious type of headache that is very rare, affecting an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. Sufferers experience bouts of severe, sharp, and sudden head pain that last between 15 and 90 minutes per episode.
They are called “cluster” headaches because these painful episodes occur in clusters spread over several days (an average of eight attacks per day). While 80% of sufferers experience periods of remission between cluster headache attacks, the other 20% have no break in their attacks.
Cluster headaches are rare and not well-researched, with no known cause and often misdiagnosed as migraines or sinus headaches. Sufferers describe the pain as worse than childbirth, like a hot poker or being shot in the face. Pain usually occurs on one side of the skull and may cause tearing or drooping in that eye, as well as nasal congestion.
5. Migraine headache
Migraines are a well-known type of head pain. Indeed, some people will refer to their extreme head pain as a migraine, but there are very specific factors needed for head pain to qualify as a true migraine.
Migraine headaches have four distinct phases:
Each of these phases has specific characteristics (although not everyone’s migraine follows the same trajectory or timeline).
In the days or hours leading up to a migraine attack, the prodromal phases feature an increase in irritability, food cravings, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and sensitivity to light and sound. Not everyone experiences the visual disturbances of the aura phase of migraine, but those who do may see wavy lines or dots and experience temporary loss of vision along with numbness or tingling in their body.
The headache phase can last up to three days with symptoms that range from:
- Extreme fatigue
Finally, the postdromal phase comes with fatigue, depression, and an inability to concentrate.
The causes of migraines headaches can vary, with most research focusing on triggers. Some triggers include lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, and sleep routines. Medical causes of migraine include fluctuating hormones, some psychiatric disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea.
How will Alliance Pain Solutions help with my headaches or migraines?
First of all, we believe you. We believe your pain is debilitating and making daily life challenging.
Our goal is to uncover whatever underlying factors we can to help determine the cause of your headache pain. From there, we’ll design a tailored treatment approach to help you manage your pain.
Headache pain diagnosis
Barring any physical condition that produces a secondary headache (e.g., head trauma), a headache pain diagnosis will focus on an in-depth medical history that includes any family history of headache pain.
We will also talk about the type and location of your pain, any accompanying symptoms, when pain occurs, and how long it lasts. This will give us a better picture of your headache pain and can help us diagnose the cause of your pain.
Our headache pain treatment approach
Headache treatments are tailored to each individual patient and their pain. We advise a comprehensive pain management approach that may include:
- Changes in lifestyle
- Preventative medications
- Pain-relieving medications, as needed
- Chemodenervation for patients suffering from chronic migraines
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Chiropractic care
For cluster headaches, treatment approaches focus on prevention as well as swift, responsive care when a cluster headache begins. Oxygen, verapamil, and Imitrex are often used to both prevent and help with the pain of cluster headaches.
Our goal is to develop the least invasive headache treatment plan for you based on proven protocols.
Alliance Pain Solutions is a West Phoenix pain clinic serving patients from all over the Valley. If you are suffering from undiagnosed headache pain, get in touch today.