Everyone experiences an occasional headache. However, some people experience acute headaches that can require specialized pain management. At Novus Pain & Spine Center in Lakeland, Florida, we specialize in the treatment of acute headaches, using cutting edge therapies to help patients live pain free.
An acute headache is a pain or discomfort that suddenly starts and quickly gets worse, often occurring when you are under stress or after eating certain foods.
Acute headache pain can occur daily, and even several times during the day.
The most common types of acute headaches include migraine, tension, and cluster headaches.
Migraine headaches are usually accompanied with nausea and sensitivity to light. Migraines have distinct phases, although not everyone experiences each individual phase:
- Premonition or prodromal phase: the sufferer experiences a change in mood or behavior hours or days before the actual headache.
- Aura phase: visual, sensory, or motor symptoms may be experienced prior to the actual headache. These can include vision changes, hallucinations, numbness, changes in speech, and even muscle weakness.
- Headache phase: the actual headache with a throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. It may also be accompanied by light and motion sensitivity, depression, fatigue, and anxiety.
- Resolution phase: the pain lessens, but the sufferer may experience fatigue, irritability, and trouble concentrating.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. A tension headache can be caused by stress and tight muscles. It usually begins slowly with both sides of the head hurting. The pain is mild to moderate, but not severe; it’s often described as a dull pain, or feeling like the head is being squeezed in a vice or wrapped with a tight band.
Cluster headaches are a series of headaches that may last weeks or even months. They are associated with severe pain on one side of the head, usually around or behind one eye.
What Causes Acute Headaches?
Headache pain comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nerves. There are specific nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles which send pain signals to your brain; however, there is no clear reason as to the cause.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of a headache may not be known; however, some of the triggers include:
- Stress or tension. The headache may occur hours or even days after a stressful event.
- Fatigue, or lack of sleep; changes in your usual sleep pattern, even a nap during the day.
- Menstruation, especially after pregnancy, birth control pills, or hormone replacement therapy.
- Food like cured meats, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, dark chocolate, and MSG.
- Suddenly not having caffeine, especially if you usually consume large amounts.
- A medical problem, such as an infection, tooth pain, neck or sinus pain, thyroid problem, or a tumor.
- An injury to the head.
Headaches are classified as either primary or secondary. A primary headache is when the headache is the main medical problem; although other factors, such as muscle tension or exposure to certain foods, may be the actual cause. Other factors that contribute to headaches include medicines and dehydration.
A secondary headache is related to an underlying medical condition, such as a neck injury, eye and jaw problems, and teeth or sinus infections.
How are Acute Headaches Treated?
The treatment for an acute headache is based on several factors:
- Your age.
- Your overall health and medical history.
- How sick you are.
- Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, and therapies.
- How long your condition is expected to last.
Obviously, the goal is to stop your headaches from occurring. Effective headache pain management depends on finding the type of headache you experience. Sometimes the most effective pain management may not require medication. Instead, it might include:
- Learning to avoid known triggers (certain foods/ beverages, lack of sleep, and fasting).
- Changing your daily dietary habits.
- Resting in a quiet, dark environment.
- Stress management.
Sometimes, migraine and cluster headaches may require specific pain management. This can include:
- Rescue medicines: medicines bought over-the-counter, such as pain relievers, to stop the headache.
- Preventive medication: medicines taken daily to help reduce the onset of headaches.
- Abortive medication: medicines that act on specific receptors in nerves and blood vessels in the head to stop a headache in progress.
In some cases, headaches may require immediate medical attention including hospitalization for observation, diagnostic testing, or even surgery.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and specializes in treating pain resulting from acute headaches. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.
Acute Headaches Resources
What is a Headache? (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Headache Basics (WebMD)
Acute Headache (Drugs.com)