Headaches are pains in the head, neck and scalp that vary in nature, symptoms and causes. The complex nature of headaches has led to a multitude of classifications and headache terminologies. Currently, there are 24 different types of headaches medically classified.

Globally, headache symptoms are some of the most common disorders in the nervous system. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around half to three-quarters of adults aged 18–65 years have had a headache in the past year. Additionally, around 4% of the world’s adult population have headaches for 15 or more days every month.

Patients who suffer from headaches may be diagnosed with one of many different underlying causes. Some headaches arise from “central” problems, which can range from tumors to chemical imbalances. However, most headaches are due to the compression of superficial nerves in the head and neck, which causes more profound pain in the head. It is these headaches that can be addressed with migraine headache surgery.

Headache Types

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches tend to be very painful and occur in patterns of “clusters.” These headache clusters are episodes of headaches that occur with great frequency, followed by latency periods where no headaches are experienced. These headache clusters may be unpredictable and can last for weeks or months, with varying durations of headache-free periods. Most people who develop this type of headaches are in their twenties or above.

Migraine Headaches

The term “migraine headache” is frequently used as an all-encompassing phrase to describe a severe and sometimes debilitating headache. Migraine attacks typically include a moderate or severe headache which can be one-sided, pulsating in quality and last for up to two to three days. Migraines can be aggravated by routine physical activity. In a U.S. household, 1 in 4 people is diagnosed with a migraine that affects their ability to function or work normally. Migraine headaches often begin at puberty and affect those between 35 and 45 years of age. Migraines affect more women than men due to hormonal influences, with a 2:1 ratio. Children who have migraines tend to experience shorter attacks with more obvious abdominal symptoms.

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia produces symptoms such as a piercing, throbbing or electric-shock-like chronic pain. This pain is felt in the upper neck, back of the head and behind the ears and is usually located on only one side of the head. Typically, occipital neuralgia pain begins in the neck and spreads upwards towards the head. While not technically a headache itself, occipital neuralgia represents irritation or inflammation of the occipital nerves, which can cause a sensation at the back of the head. This inflammation produces abnormal signaling to the brain that results in severe headaches or pain in the neck itself.

Post-Traumatic Headaches (PTH)

According to the International Headache Society, a post-traumatic headache (PTH) is defined as “a headache developing within seven days of the injury or after regaining consciousness.” Symptoms of a PTH include dizziness, insomnia, poor concentration, memory problems, noise or bright light sensitivity, fatigue and mood swings. Some patients may even experience depression and nervousness. Although studies show that most PTH headaches resolve within three months, 18-65% of PTH cases last longer and are classified as persistent PTH. Therefore, patients who experience headaches following trauma should immediately be evaluated by a physician. Chronic headaches resulting from previous trauma are unfortunately quite common. Such headaches may even be an unrelenting reminder of the traumatic event.

Tension-Type Headaches (TTH)

Tension-type headaches (TTH) are described as a pressure or tightness that feels like a band wrapped around the head, sometimes spreading from or into the neck. This type of headache is divided into two categories: episodic TTH and chronic TTH. Episodic TTH is a headache that occurs fewer than 15 days per month, while chronic TTH occurs more than 15 days per month. Around 70% of the population experiences episodic TTH, and around 3% of adults experience chronic TTH. An episodic TTH can last from a few hours to a few days. A chronic TTH is a more debilitating headache than an episodic TTH. This type of headache often begins in the teenage years and is usually stress-related or linked to musculoskeletal problems in the neck.

Chronic Daily Headaches (CDH)

Chronic daily headache (CDH) is more of a state of being rather than an actual diagnosis. The definition of chronic daily headache is a headache that occurs over half of the time, or at least 15 days each month. CDH is not commonly known as a specific type of headache. Instead, it encompasses one or many headaches such as tension-type headaches, migraine headaches, cluster headaches and many more.

When to Seek Treatment

Although some headaches are minor, there may be times when a headache needs medical attention. If you are suffering from one or more of the symptoms below, it may be advisable to look at treatment options:

  • Your headaches occur more frequently than usual
  • Your headache symptoms have gotten worse
  • Your headache interferes with your daily activities or everyday life
  • You are taking pain relievers more than twice a week
  • Your over-the-counter pain medication or current treatments are not working
  • Your current medication or treatments are giving you undesirable side effects
  • You have continuous headaches that do not stop after seven days
  • The symptoms of your headaches change

Migraine Surgery Specialty Center provides specialized care for patients suffering from headaches. Our team is here to answer any questions or concerns you might have. For a more thorough discussion of your specific needs, please contact us or call our facility at 805-969-9004 for a consultation with our experienced surgeon, Dr. Lowenstein.

Schedule A Consultation

Schedule Now