You have a cold and develop a headache or perhaps you celebrated a little hard with friends and your head pounds the next day. These are examples of perfectly normal headaches that can make an appearance every once in a while.
But if you struggle with primary and chronic headaches that have no small impact on your quality of life, it’s time to get to the bottom of the problem.
Since there are more than 150 different types of headaches, identifying the source of your ongoing head pain can be tricky.
To narrow the field, our experienced headache specialists and pain management team here at Pain Medicine Consultants wants to focus on three of the more common types of headaches we see here at our practice — migraine, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.
Collectively, these three account for more than their fair share of head pain.
About 42 million people in the United States have migraines, which are classified as a neurological disorder. Migraines have some specific characteristics that set them apart from other types of head pain, including:
- Throbbing pain on one side of your head only
- Visual disturbances before the attack (an aura)
- Vomiting and nausea
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
- Postdrome — a post migraine hangover
These attacks can last an hour or more (up to 72 hours) and not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. For example, some people have migraines without aura (visual disturbances), while others experience three days of symptoms.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, come see us for an evaluation. If we find that you have the condition simply known as migraine, we can get you started on a prevention plan.
The most common type of headaches are tension headaches, which are associated with stress and muscle tension. Unlike migraines, tension headaches involve both sides of your head and can feel like your head is in a vice-like grip.
Our patients usually describe the pain as dull and a constant ache rather than the throbbing that best describes migraine.
Another way to differentiate tension headaches is that they don’t come with any symptoms other than head pain, which can sometimes travel down into your shoulders and back, depending upon the extent of the tension.
If we find that tension headaches are behind your head pain, we typically recommend stress reduction techniques, which are usually very effective in resolving these headaches.
This last type of headache can be a very frustrating one. Cluster headaches come on very quickly. They typically last 30-45 minutes and involve fairly intense pain on one side of your head, usually behind your eye.
If this happened just once, it might not be so problematic, but these headaches come in clusters — up to about eight each day. And these headaches can persist for weeks or months and then simply go into remission the same way they came — without warning.
If you’re dealing with cluster headaches, we can try medications that reduce the pain during a headache, as well as medications that shorten the cluster cycles. Knowing your triggers for cluster headaches is also helpful so that you can prevent them from occurring.
Whether or not you recognize your head pain from one of the three headaches we describe above, come see us for an evaluation. Through an assessment, we can gain a better understanding about what’s causing your pain and get you on the road to relief as quickly as possible.
For expert headache diagnosis and treatment, please contact one of our offices in Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, or Corte Madera, California, to schedule an appointment.