When Are Your Headaches Cause for Concern?

Headaches are never fun, but if you experience severe headaches, you may worry that you have an underlying health condition. The headache experts at Peak Physical Medicine in Visalia, California, have the expertise you need with diagnosing and treating different types of headache pain.Our skilled providers also want you to understand when a headache is a cause for concern, when to seek help, and what treatment options work for alleviating headache pain. Read on to learn more about headaches and the signs that your head pain warrants further attention.

Understanding headaches

Everyone experiences headache pain at some point, and for many people, headaches are a chronic condition. Not all headaches are the same, however. At their most basic level, headaches cause pain in your head that may feel like aching, throbbing, or stabbing sensations, or a feeling of pressure inside your head.

Some headaches are mild nuisances, and others can be so severe they sideline you for hours. You can experience headaches in different locations, including the temples, forehead, and back of the neck or head. Sometimes headaches last minutes, and other times, they may last for a week or more.

Different people experience various triggers for headaches and different types of headaches. Here’s a closer look at some common types of headaches:

  • Tension headaches, from stress, strain, or anxiety
  • Cluster headaches, which occur on one side and come in groups, or clusters
  • Chiari headaches, caused by a birth defect
  • Sinus headaches, which occur because of sinus infections or pressure

Some people also experience migraine headaches, which typically affect one side of the head, though some people have pain on both sides. The severity of pain with migraine headaches, usually described as intense, severe, throbbing, varies among people and from migraine-to-migraine. These headaches may last for a few hours or for several days.

When to worry about your headaches

Many headaches can be treated at home with rest or over-the-counter pain relievers. Strong headache pain by itself isn’t usually a sign that something is wrong; however, some headache symptoms can be a sign that you have an underlying, life-endangering condition.

If you experience any of the unusual headache symptoms listed below, seek medical attention:

  • Sudden and intense headache pain that becomes unbearable in a matter of seconds or minutes or that you might describe as “the worst headache of your life” (call 911 as this may indicate an aneurysm)
  • New headache pain that differs from other headaches or that comes on more frequently or more intensely and doesn’t respond to treatment
  • Headache pain that wakes you up from sleep
  • Headache pain that gets worse when you lie down, sneeze, cough, or bear weight
  • Getting a new headache after age 40 when you haven’t experienced headaches before

You should also seek treatment for headaches that come with weakness in your face, arms, or legs, numbness or problems with coordination, visual impairment, trouble with language or speech, dizziness or vertigo, feelings of confusion, or seizures.

Treating chronic headaches

Even if your headache doesn’t point to an underlying health condition, it doesn’t mean chronic headaches don’t disrupt your life. Chronic headaches can sideline you from the things you enjoy, make completing your daily tasks and work difficult, and cause unpleasant side effects.

Because it can be difficult to determine the underlying cause of your headache, it’s important to get help from a trained provider with experience diagnosing and treating headaches. This helps ensure a more effective treatment plan to best help your unique situation.

At Peak Physical Medicine, we specialize in treating the underlying causes of your headaches. Once we know what’s making your head hurt, we can develop a customized treatment plan to alleviate your chronic headaches.

Each patient is different, so treatments vary; however, your plan may include:

  • Dietary and lifestyle changes
  • Therapeutic exercise plan
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Education about body mechanics
  • Stress management
  • Relaxation techniques

Our team understands that headache prevention can be the best medicine. Your provider may offer patient education about headache and migraine prevention, helping you live pain-free and reducing or eliminating your dependence on medications.

If you’re experiencing chronic headaches, the experts at Peak Physical Medicine can help! Contact our Visalia office to set up a consultation, or request an appointment online now.

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