Almost everyone has headaches at some point in their lives, but if you have headaches for 15 or more days a month, then your condition is considered chronic. You are not alone; almost 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches. If your symptoms are mild to moderate, you probably use over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen for pain management for chronic headaches, but there are other treatment options available to you if your condition worsens.
Types of Chronic Headaches
There are many types of chronic headaches. Tension headaches produce pain on both sides of the head and often result from stress or misaligned musculature. Tension headaches usually produce mild to moderate pain. Migraine headaches are a particularly painful form that presents often on only one side of your head, produces intense, throbbing pain, and may cause nausea or light sensitivity.
If you have chronic headaches, you should see a physician to determine what kind of condition it is and confirm that it is not symptomatic of a more serious health condition. Some warning signs that you may need immediate medical attention include having headaches more than twice a week; over-use of OTC medications; or debilitating pain.
Causes of Chronic Headaches
There are many causes for chronic headaches, some relatively benign while others are quite serious. One of the most common causes is over-use of OTC pain relievers or caffeine. Some more mundane causes include obesity, stress, bad posture or insomnia. In a much smaller number of cases, chronic headaches may result from an infection like meningitis, pinched nerves, concussion or cancerous growth.
Pain Management for Chronic Headaches
Chronic headaches are often severe enough to interfere with daily life, so pain management is a high priority among sufferers. If your physician can identify an underlying physiological condition like stress or insomnia, then she will recommend a course of treatment to address it. However, if there is no readily identifiable cause, then your doctor may suggest one of a number of pain management techniques.
- Non-pharmacological Treatment Options: Your physician will probably ask you to consider non-pharmacological treatment options before prescribing a pain reliever. These may include lifestyle changes like dietary improvement or increased exercise. If you are open to them, your physician may also recommend non-traditional therapies like cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation therapy or acupuncture. More physicians are encouraging headache sufferers to explore non-drug treatments in order to minimize risk of drug dependence and promote sustainable pain management techniques.
- Pharmacological Treatment Options: For some patients, tricyclic antidepressants like Pamelor may remediate anxiety or insomnia that can cause chronic headaches. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs may also help mitigate headache pain; drugs like Anaprox and Naprelan have proven effective for headache sufferers if used sparingly.
- Migraine Treatment Options: If you periodically suffer from migraine headaches, you may want to consider beta blockers or anticonvulsants which have helped many migraine sufferers. For patients with chronic migraines (15 or more migraine days a month), pain management therapies include Botox therapy. This treatment can reduce the number of migraine headaches per month. The injection of the botulinum toxin only takes about 15 minutes and may be repeated every 12 weeks.
Please contact Colorado Pain Care to learn more or to schedule an appointment.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.