Headaches are caused by damage or injury to nerves that transfer information between the brain, spinal cord, skin and other parts of the brain. The pain varies from mild to excruciating. It is important to accurately diagnose the underlying conditions, such as occipital neuralgia, cervical cephalalgias, migraines, and tension headaches, as their treatments vary.
This is a condition in which the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord to the scalp, known as the occipital nerves, become injured or inflamed, leading sufferers to experience pain in the back of the head or at the base of the skull. People sometimes mistake this for a migraine because the symptoms are similar, however, the treatments for these conditions differ. Causes include injury, inflammation, pressure or irritation to the occipital nerves.
Symptoms of occipital neuralgia include:
Intense pain that feels like a sharp, jabbing or electric shock in the back of the head
Aching, burning, and throbbing pain starting at the base of the head all the way to the scalp
Pain on one or both sides of the head
Pain behind the eye
Pain when moving the neck
The pain caused by tension headaches is characterized as dull and accompanied by a feeling of tightness or pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck. They are also known as stress headaches and are the most common form of headaches in adults.
Tension headaches may last from a few minutes to a few days. Unlike migraines, individuals do not report other symptoms, such as blurred vision, light/noise sensitivity, nausea, or vomiting.
Mild/moderate pain or pressure on top or on sides of the head
Starts later in the day
Cervical cephalalgia is pain that comes from movement in the neck. It can also occur when your neck remains in the same position for a long period of time.
Other signs may include:
Pain on one side of your head or face
Steady pain that does not throb
Head pain when sneezing or taking a deep breath
Pain attacks that last from hours to days
Nausea and possible vomiting
Migraine headaches can cause severe throbbing pain and typically occur on just one side of the head. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. These attacks can cause tremendous pain for hours or even days. Flashes of light, blind spots or head tingling on one side of the face are reported warning signs.
Symptoms of migraines include:
Pain on one or both sides of the head
Throbbing or pulsating pain
Light and sound sensitivity
Nausea and vomiting
Blurred vision and lightheadedness
Cluster headaches are characterized as a series of short yet painful headaches that occur every day for weeks or months at a time. People tend to get them at the same time each year, either in the Spring or the Fall, and for this reason, people often mistake them for symptoms of allergies.
A nerve in the face that is involved in cluster headaches creates an intense pain around one of the eyes, hindering the ability to see during an attack. You can get a cluster headache when a specific nerve pathway at the base of your brain is involved.
There are some defining characteristics of cluster headaches, including:
Cluster headaches reach full impact within 10 minutes
The pain is usually one-sided, is burning/piercing, throbbing and constant
The attacks can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as 3 hours, with up to 3 of these per day
Attacks seem to be linked to the rhythm of the body and happen regularly
They’ve been referred to as “Alarm Clock Headaches”
Most sufferers will get daily headaches for 2 weeks to 3 months
If you find yourself suffering from one of the above conditions, it is important that you consult with Dr. Peter Carney in order to receive a diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan. Give us a call at 574-389-7737 or contact us online today