What can I do about chronic headaches?
Everyone gets a headache now and then, but when chronic headaches disrupt your life on an all-too-frequent basis, it’s time to take action to find and treat the cause of your headaches.
Dr. Tollestrup and his team treat countless patients who come in complaining that chronic migraines or constant headaches are keeping them from participating in the activities they love. So many of these patients are at their wits’ end, thinking they’ll be stuck with debilitating headaches forever. That’s just not the case. If you’re suffering from life-altering headaches or migraines, read on to find out more about what treatments are available to you, then call our office to schedule your appointment. You don’t have to suffer!
The many causes of chronic headaches
Headaches can be caused by an almost limitless list of triggers, which can be frustrating for sufferers who are trying to find relief. That’s why it’s critical that if you’re suffering from chronic headaches, you work with a doctor who specializes in pinning down the exact cause of your headaches and treating your headaches at their source.
Some of the most common causes of chronic headaches are:
- Too much caffeine
- Hormonal imbalances
- Sinus issues
- Nerve damage
- Vision problems
- Food sensitivities
How many headaches a month is considered chronic?
To some people, having even one headache a month is too many! However, the medical community considers your headaches chronic if you have a headache on 15 days of a single month, and that pattern continues for three months.
However, you don’t have to fit this criteria to start looking for options to relieve your headaches. If your headaches are constant and disrupting your life, please call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Tollestrup. You don’t need to suffer unnecessarily when so much can be done to treat chronic headaches.
Often overlooked cause of chronic headaches: Nerve damage
Many people think of stress, allergies and hormones when they think of headaches, but a surprising number of headache sufferers eventually discover that their chronic headaches are actually caused by injury or compression of the peripheral nerves in the neck and head.
Injury or damage to the occipital nerves nerves in the neck, or supratrochlear, supraorbital, and zygomaticotemporal nerves near the eyes, are common causes of chronic headaches and migraines. If you’ve been in an accident that has injured your upper body or head, it’s possible that the compression of one or more of these nerves is the cause of your chronic headaches. But you don’t have to have sustained a visible injury to suffer from a compressed nerve. Many other conditions such as genetics, wear-and-tear, and even other health conditions can cause compression of these nerves that leads to chronic headaches.
Been in a car accident? Whiplash can cause chronic headaches
If you’ve been in a car accident or incurred a sports injury, and you are experiencing chronic headaches, whiplash may be to blame. A whiplash injury to the neck can cause stretch and traction injuries to the nerves of the neck, as well as injuries to the neck muscles that can lead to scarring that compresses the nerves in the neck and the base of the skull. Patients with whiplash often report constant, severe headaches that originate at the back of the head.
Nerve surgery for chronic headaches
If pinched or compressed nerves are found to be the cause of your ongoing chronic headaches, nerve surgery may give you the much-needed relief you’ve been searching for.
There are two types of nerve surgery that are indicated for relieving the pain of chronic headaches caused by nerve injury or compression. The first is nerve decompression surgery, which subtly alters the anatomy around the nerve to relieve the compression.
If the nerve cannot be adequately decompressed or if the damage to the nerve is too severe, nerve disconnection surgery may be the right option. Nerve disconnection surgery permanently disconnects the damaged nerve so that it can no longer send pain signals to the brain.
Diagnosing chronic headaches caused by nerve damage
If your doctor believes that your chronic headaches are caused by compressed or damaged nerves, a simple test can confirm this diagnosis. Your doctor will inject local anesthetic around the nerves that are suspected of causing the headaches. If the headache subsides with anesthetic, that confirms that it is those nerves causing the headaches.
Do chronic headaches ever go away on their own?
Depending on the cause of your chronic headaches, they may or may not go away on their own. Chronic headaches due to stress, allergies, or hormone fluctuations may subside when the underlying trigger is no longer present. Until you know the source of your headache pain, there is no way to know whether or not your headaches will go away on their own.
If your headaches are caused by injured or compressed nerves, it’s unlikely that they will subside without proper medical treatment. Nerve disconnection or nerve decompression surgery is likely the best option for treating headaches caused vey nerve pain.
Can chronic tension headaches be cured?
Tension headaches and stress headaches are the most common type of headaches in America today. These headaches happen because, when we are stressed, we tense up our muscles in the jaw and shoulders, which puts strain on the nerves of the head and neck and leads to headaches. Also, stress causes our bodies to release hormones as part of the “fight or flight” response, which causes vascular changes that can lead to headaches. Also, stress can cause nighttime teeth grinding – putting as much as 200 pounds of pressure on the teeth and causing sometimes debilitating headaches that may be mistaken for migraines.
Fortunately, there are many options for treatment for stress headache sufferers, many of which are completely non-invasive. Diet and exercise changes, OTC pain relievers, physical therapy, muscle relaxant medication, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, and more can be part of a successful treatment plan for chronic stress and tension headaches.
The Tollestrup Team Can Help
If you’re suffering from chronic headaches or migraines, Dr. Tim Tollestrup and his team can help. Call us at 702-505-8655 to set up a consultation today.