Uh oh, you can feel it coming- the throbbing ache, the sensitivity to light, the pain creeping its way deep into your skull- another headache is on its way and you just don’t have time to deal. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of adults worldwide experience chronic daily headaches. Millions more suffer less frequent headaches, but we can all agree that one headache is one headache too many. Stay tuned my unfortunate headache-prone reader for an introduction on cranial pain, types of headache you may be suffering from and how to manage.
Most people have headaches from time to time. But if you have a headache more days than not, you may be suffering from chronic daily headaches. For headaches to be considered chronic they must occur more than 15 days per month and for more than 3 months. The unrelenting nature of chronic headaches make them particularly hard to deal with. But with aggressive initial treatment and steady, long-term management may reduce overall pain and lead to fewer headaches.
These types of headache can be divided into 4 main subcategories: Chronic migraine, Chronic tension-type headache, New daily persistent headache, and Hemicrania continua. Symptoms vary for each type of headache. If you’re not sure which type of chronic headache that you’re suffering from, below is a guide on headache symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic website.
• Usually evolves from episodic migraine without aura
• Includes at least two of the following — affects only one side of your head, pulsating or throbbing pain, moderate to severe intensity, aggravated by physical activity
• Includes at least one of the following — nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound
Chronic tension-type headache
• Usually evolves from episodic tension-type headaches
• Typically hurts on both sides of your head
• Mild to moderate pain, often described as pressing or tightening
• May include mild nausea or sensitivity to light or sound
New daily persistent headache
• Starts suddenly and occurs daily within three days of onset
• Hurts on both sides of your head
• Feels like a tightening or pressing sensation, not throbbing
• Mild to moderate intensity
• Sometimes includes one of the following — mild nausea, sensitivity to sound or sensitivity to light
• Hurts on only one side of the head and pain never shifts sides
• Daily and consistent, with no pain-free periods
• Moderate intensity, interspersed with brief instances of severe pain
• Includes at least one of the following — tearing or redness of the eye on the affected side, nasal congestion or runny nose, swelling or drooping of the eyelid
Although it’s not completely understood why these types of headache occur, doctors have narrowed down a few underlying conditions that may cause constant cranial pain:
• Inflammation or other problems with the blood vessels in and around the brain
• Infections, such as meningitis
• Intracranial pressure that’s either too high or too low
• Pinched nerves in the neck
• Brain tumor
• Traumatic brain injury
In most cases chronic daily head pain doesn’t have an underlying physical cause. They may occur, though, if you develop a heightened response to pain signals or if the part of your brain that suppresses pain signals isn’t working properly. Doctors also believe that people who take pain medication too frequently may suffer from constant cranial pain. If you are taking pain medications, even over the counter analgesics, more than two days a week then you’re at risk of developing rebound headaches.
Whatever the reason that you may be suffering from chronic headaches, it is best not to self-diagnose. Make an appointment with your doctor today and find out what’s really going on in your head. Your life is too busy and too precious to worry about constant cranial pain.