Nerve Surgery for Chronic Headaches

The pain of a headache is something that nearly everyone can relate to, and most people will experience headaches from time to time during their lives. But for people who experience constant, severe headaches or chronic migraines, the life-altering pain is debilitating and greatly affects their quality of life.

Dr. Tollestrup and his team are committed to helping chronic migraine and headache sufferers take their lives back with nerve surgery for chronic headaches.

What causes chronic migraines?

Up to 45 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches in some form. These headaches can be caused by a multitude of factors, making it very difficult to find an accurate diagnosis for the source of chronic headache pain. If you are suffering from chronic headaches or migraines, it’s critical to find the origination point of your pain so that it can be treated effectively.

The list of chronic headache triggers is as long as this page. But some of the most common causes for chronic headaches include:

  • Stress
  • Sinus issues
  • Nerve damage
  • Chronic pain conditions
  • Overuse of caffeine
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Allergies
  • Dehydration
  • Tension
  • Food sensitivity
  • Vision issues

Nerve damage may cause chronic headaches

Most headaches can be treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications. But for those who don’t respond well to those non-invasive interventions, nerve surgery may offer the hope they’ve been searching for to finally relieve their headaches.

If you’re had a workup from a headache specialist and have exhausted your options for medical therapy to no avail, the cause for your headaches may be an injury or compression to one or more of your peripheral nerves.

Injury or compression to the nerves in the back of your neck and head (such as the greater occipital nerves, lesser occipital nerve, third occipital nerves) or in the front of the face by the eyes (supratrochlear, supraorbital, and zygomaticotemporal nerves) are common, and severely under-recognized, causes of chronic headaches.

Whiplash is a common cause of chronic headaches

Chronic migraine-type headaches are especially likely to be due to some type of underlying peripheral nerve pathology if there is a history of trauma or injury to the head or neck area prior to the onset of the headaches, such as a car accident or sports injury.

One of the most common types of injury that can lead to the development of these types of chronic headaches is a whiplash injury to the neck. Whiplash can produce stretch-traction injuries to nerves and injuries to neck muscles which can lead to scarring and compression of nerves in the neck and base of the skull. When this happens, the patient will often experience constant, severe posterior headaches.

Blunt or penetrating trauma to the face, back of the head or neck can also lead to nerve injury and chronic headaches.

Nerve surgery for chronic headaches

If the cause of your headaches comes down to compressed or pinched nerves in your head and neck, surgery may provide the relief you’re looking for. There are two options for nerve surgery to relieve migraine pain: nerve decompression surgery and nerve disconnection surgery.

Nerve decompression surgery gently alters the physical anatomy surrounding the affected nerves, giving them the proper amount of “breathing room” so they can once again function normally. When the affected nerves are decompressed, your headaches should stop altogether or become drastically decreased.

Nerve disconnection surgery permanently disconnects the damaged nerves that are sending pain signals to your brain and causing chronic headaches. This type of surgery is best suited to patients whose affected nerves are non-critical to other bodily processes.

Your doctor will go over your options with you and help you choose which nerve surgery is right for your unique situation and anatomy.

How to diagnose chronic headaches

Whether or not you have a history of physical trauma to the head or neck prior to the onset of your headaches, it is relatively easy to discover if peripheral nerve injury is the source of your headache pain.

We will simply inject local anesthetic around the suspect nerves, putting them to sleep temporarily. If your headache goes away, then that confirms that those are the nerves are causing your headaches.

Can chronic migraines be cured?

Once your nerve injury is diagnosed, we can then move forward on a plan to decompress or disconnect the damaged nerves that are causing your chronic headaches. Nerve surgery for chronic headaches provides dramatic relief for headaches sufferers who may have been at their wit’s end searching for relief from headache or migraine pain.

Do chronic migraines ever go away?

Some people find that their migraines will go away over time, or fluctuate in severity and frequency. Unfortunately, there is no way to know whether or not your migraines will go away on their own.

If your migraines or chronic headaches are caused by compression or injury to the nerves in your head or neck, it is unlikely that they will get better on their own, especially if a lot of time has elapsed since the time of injury. Once a nerve is pinched or compressed, the only way it can heal and function normally again is to receive the pressure on that nerve. The most common method we use to decompress headache-causing nerves in the head and neck is with nerve surgery.

How many migraines a month is considered chronic?

You are considered to have chronic migraines if you have:

  • Headaches for at least 15 days per month
  • At least eight of those days include migraine-specific symptoms
  • This pattern continues for at least three months

Some symptoms of migraine headaches include:

  • Vision changes such as seeing bright flashes of light
  • Pain that trobs or pulses
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

If you don’t meet the criteria for chronic migraine headaches, but you’re still experiencing headache pain more often or more severely than you want to deal with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You don’t have to suffer with constant headaches that disrupt your quality of life. There is a lot that can be done to help you feel better.

The Tollestrup Team Can Help

Dr. Tim Tollestrup and his team can help. Call us at 702-505-8655 or fill out the form on this page to set up a consultation to determine your options.

Chronic headache FAQs

Can TMJ cause chronic headaches?

TMJ can cause patients to clench and grind their teeth, particularly at night. This puts extreme strain on the muscles in the jaw – as much as 200 pounds of pressure! All that pressure causes terrible headaches that are often mistaken for migraines.

Are chronic migraines hereditary?

The cause of most migraines is not well understood, but there is research to suggest that genetics could play a role in development of migraines. As many as 90 percent of migraine sufferers report having a family member that also suffers from migraines.

Can chronic migraines cause brain damage?

Migraines are so incredibly painful that many suffers think they must cause lasting damage to the brain. Fortunately, that’s not the case. According to the American Migraine Foundation, there is no evidence that migraines cause brain damage or cognitive deficiencies.

Can stress cause chronic headaches?

Stress is a common trigger for tension headaches and migraines. When we’re stressed, we tense up our muscles (particularly in the jaw and shoulders), both of which can lead to headaches. Also, stressful events cause our bodies to release chemicals related to our fight or flight response. These chemicals cause vascular changes that can trigger headaches or migraines.

Can chronic tension headaches be cured?

Depending on the cause of your tension headaches, there are many options out there to help you find the relief you desire. If your tension headaches are caused or worsened by a pinched or damaged nerve, nerve surgery may be a possible option for treating your tension headaches.

Other things that can help you find relief from tension headaches include lifestyle changes and medication. Some things that people find helpful when treating tension headaches include OTC pain relievers, prescription pain relievers, antidepressant medication, muscle relaxers, diet changes, physical therapy, exercise, and many more. There are many options for treating tension headaches, so don’t lose hope!

Can chronic sinusitis cause headaches?

Sinus headaches and migraines are often confused because they present very similarly. If you have chronic sinusitis and also experience recurrent headaches, it’s important to find out if your headaches are caused by your sinus troubles or by another source. Properly diagnosing the source of your headache pain is paramount to treating it effectively.

The Tollestrup Team Can Help

Dr. Tim Tollestrup and his team can help. Call us at 702-666-0463 or fill out the form on this page to set up a consultation to determine your options.