Headaches represent one of the most common health complaints expressed by adults all around the world. We may call them tension headaches or migraines and we may try to find ways to cope with frequent bouts of pain. Rarely, though, do most people explore what’s going on beneath the surface of their pain. Here, we discuss the anatomy of some of the most common headaches. This is an important aspect of our practice because the knowledge that Dr. Lowenstein has accumulated about peripheral nerve irritation supports optimal treatment outcomes through nerve decompression.
There are specific nerves that have been identified as factors in chronic headaches and migraines. These include:
- The greater and lesser occipital nerves, located at the back of the head and neck.
- The auriculotemporal and zygomaticotemporal nerves at the temples.
- The supra-orbital and supra-trochlear nerves above the eye socket.
- The nerves that supply the lining of the nose.
When any of these nerves is constricted, pain may develop. Several factors contribute to this constriction, including:
- Everyday tension. We all hold tension in different parts of the body. When tension is held in the forehead, the corrugator muscles may compress the supra-trochlear and supra-orbital nerves. When tension is held in the trapezius muscles of the shoulders area, the occipital nerves at the back of the head and neck become compressed and irritated.
- Connective tissue bands around the occipital nerves may cause constriction.
- Swelling within the nasal lining can cause constriction in nearby nerves of the nose and nasal passage, causing headache pain in the sinus region.
- The supra-orbital and supra-trochlear nerves usually pass through small notches in the bone over the eye without tension. Some people have bony tunnels instead of notches that the nerves must travel through. If the tunnels are small, the nerves are compressed.
- Blood vessels may irritate any of the nerves we’ve mentioned. This is often seen in the nerves at the temple area and the back of the head and neck, resulting in throbbing headaches.
How Surgery can Address Chronic Headaches and Migraines
Migraine surgery has helped so many patients find the relief they could not get with medication. This surgical procedure is not brain surgery- it is an outpatient procedure and does not even require a hospital stay. It focuses on the nerves that are compressed, releasing them from the surrounding tissue that is causing irritation. This procedure has a strong history of success, helping between 70% and 90% of patients achieve more than 50% improvement in pain. Some patients achieve complete elimination of symptoms through this specialized nerve-release technique.