Chronic headaches and migraines What are they and how are they treated?
If you suffer from headaches or migraines, you are not alone. In Australia, an estimated 7 million people are affected by (tension) headaches and almost 5 million by migraines.
What are headaches? What are migraines?
At Pain Specialists WA in Perth, we have had a lot of people ask us about the difference between headaches and migraines. In short, a migraine is a type of headache, but not every headache is a migraine.
Headaches can range from mild to severe, and they are classified into several different types, based on symptoms and causes. Migraines are one of these headache types.
Migraine sufferers often complain about an intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head or on both sides. They sometimes experience other symptoms as well, such as sensitivity to light and sound, vomiting and nausea.
Migraine is common – about 4.9 million Australians experience migraine*. The most common headache type however is tension headache, with an estimated 7 million Australians suffering from these. Other common types of headaches are
- Occipital neuralgia: A type of headache that is characterised by a sharp, shooting pain that originates from the occipital nerves located in the back of the head and upper neck.
- Cervicogenic headache: A type of headache that is caused by problems in the neck, such as muscle tension, joint dysfunction, or nerve irritation. The pain is typically located on one side of the head and may radiate from the neck.
There are many other reasons why you experience headaches, for example, uncontrolled blood pressure, sinusitis, dental-related issues, shingles, and even excess use of painkillers. That’s why we need a comprehensive assessment to identify the cause of your headache before we can treat your pain.
Generally, headaches are managed by a neurologist: a specialist who treats conditions of the brain, peripheral nerves and spinal cord. A pain specialist can do a comprehensive assessment and utilise advanced techniques such as rhizotomy to the occipital nerves, a cervical facet rhizotomy, and botox injections to help with some of the headaches.
What causes headaches?
Primary headaches are the most common type of headaches and are not caused by an underlying medical condition. Examples are tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches, on the other hand, are caused by an underlying medical condition, such as a head injury, infection or brain tumour.
The International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-3) classifies different types of headaches based on their symptoms, duration, and underlying causes. Want to know more? Check the classification here.
Headaches diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosing headaches is based on taking a detailed medical history, performing a physical examination, and sometimes ordering diagnostic investigations. We use the ICHD-3 classification system to categorise headaches into different types based on their symptoms and characteristics.
Before seeing a pain specialist, most headache sufferers have already tried a variety of medications to treat the most common type of headaches (tension headaches and migraines).
Typically, when you’re still in pain, your GP might refer you to see a pain specialist. We offer a number of treatment options for severe headaches.
- Occipital nerve rhizotomy
- Sphenopalatine ganglio block
- Rhizotomy to C2/3 facet joint of third occipital nerve
- Injection for migraine
At Pain Specialists WA in Perth, we will empower you with strategies to avoid triggers that cause headaches.