How Do You Get Rid Of Chronic Headaches?

How Do You Get Rid Of Chronic Headaches?

Occasional headaches are unfortunate, inconvenient, and disruptive for countless people worldwide. Most people will experience relief without medical intervention. However, tens of millions of people in the U.S. experience severe headaches (migraine) or suffer from chronic headaches. So, how do you get rid of chronic headaches?  Here’s a look at how pain management specialists may treat chronic headaches.

Diagnosing the Type and Cause of Headaches

One of the first steps pain management experts take when treating chronic or severe headaches is to determine the type of headache and the potential cause of the headache. 

Primary headaches occur independent of another medical condition. Secondary headaches occur as the result of a known health issue. Migraine, for example, is a primary headache, whereas secondary headaches may have dozens of potential causes, ranging from hypertension to nerve problems, and spinal disorders, to eye problems. 

Those who suffer from chronic headaches may need to undergo various tests to rule out chronic conditions and diseases including tumors, stroke, cancer, inflammation of the brain, arteries, etc. Nerve testing may also be necessary to try to pinpoint the cause of the headaches. 

Chronic Headaches: When Do Pain Management Doctors Get Involved?

Occasional headaches or migraines do not require pain management intervention. However, when headaches become chronic (defined as headaches 15 or more days per month), you may be referred to a pain management specialist for treatment. 

Your pain management specialist will begin with a thorough evaluation of your medical history, including current health conditions, medications, and lifestyle. They will then begin ruling out potential causes and honing in on more likely causes.

 As your pain specialist works to uncover the underlying cause of chronic headaches, they may prescribe a variety of lifestyle changes, along with prescription medications that may include anti-inflammatory medications, migraine medications known as triptans, or ergot alkaloid medications (ergotamines). 

If medications and lifestyle changes reduce the frequency or severity of your headaches, no other intervention may be necessary. Those who don’t respond to conservative treatments may be candidates for injection therapy provided by a pain management physician.  

How Do Pain Management Physicians Treat Chronic Headaches? 

People who suffer from chronic headaches or migraines that do not respond to conservative treatments or lifestyle changes may be candidates for various non-surgical pain management treatments. Examples of these treatments include the following.

  • Epidural Steroid Injection

If nerve pain originating in the spine is causing chronic headaches, an epidural steroid injection may help. Epidural steroid injections reduce inflammation and irritation in the spine

  • Facet Joint Injection

Inflammation in the facet joints may cause headaches. Local anesthetic combined with a steroid medication may be injected to alleviate headaches.

  • Occipital Nerve Block

The occipital nerves run throughout the scalp. If these nerves become inflamed or injured, they may cause headaches. Occipital nerve blocks can calm irritation and inflammation, providing headache relief.

  • Radiofrequency Ablation

Headaches due to nerve dysfunction may respond to radiofrequency therapy providing headache relief.

  • Stellate Ganglion Block

Headaches due to a nerve problem in the neck may respond to a Stellate Ganglion Block, an injection administered near a group of nerves in the neck. 

  • Trigger Point Injections

Sometimes, muscle knots deep in the muscles contract and do not release, forming a trigger point. Contracted muscles may lead to headaches. Trigger point injections can reduce headaches along with muscle pain in the body. 

Get Pain Management Help for Chronic Headaches in Portsmouth, NH

Dr. Joshua Greenspan, MD is Board-Certified in Anesthesiology and Pain Management. As founder of the American Pain Institute, Dr. Greenspan provides comprehensive pain management services to patients from Portsmouth, Exeter, Hampton, and surrounding communities. To book an appointment call 603-766-8500 .

Frequently Asked Questions

Do nerve blocks hurt?

Nerve blocks use small needles, but they do require injections. Mild discomfort may be felt, but the procedure is not painful. You may experience some tenderness at the injection sight for a couple of days. 

What can I do to reduce headaches on my own?

There are many changes you can make to reduce your risk of headaches. Drink plenty of water, reduce caffeine consumption, limit alcohol consumption, take all medications exactly as prescribed, get lots of sleep, and exercise regularly. Alternative therapies including mindful meditation, acupuncture, or massage therapy may also help.