Head Pain Part 1
Headaches, migraines, trigeminal neuralgia & TMJ syndrome… what a pain in the HEAD! For part 1 of head pains, I’d like to review how we can distinguish these pains from one another. So here’s a quick synopsis of each:
Tension headaches are often caused by muscle tension or stress. They can really be anywhere on the face, head or neck. Typically, tension headaches are in a band-like distribution across the forehead and around the back of the head (imagine you were wearing a stylish 90’s sweat band). They can involve pulsating or achy pain can be 30 minutes or it can be continuous for weeks or even months.
Migraines have an array of causes that can be investigated. Migraines are often felt on only one side of the head (not always though!). They usually cause pain behind or around an eye and creep up the forehead and can go to the top and back of the head as well. Sometimes pain is felt in other areas of the body at the same time. Migraines tend to be stabbing, sharp and/or throbbing pain. There can also be nausea, vomiting, temporary loss in vision, sensitivity to light, smell, sound and sometimes touch involved. They typically last anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days.
Trigeminal neuralgia is caused by inflammation of the trigeminal nerve (a nerve that has many branches that innervate the face). It causes sharp, nerve-like pain (numbness, tingling, burning or electric) in one side of the face. The pain can be felt in almost any area of the face and is often triggered by stimulation of the area including shower water, shaving, eating, drinking, etc. The attacks can last seconds to minutes and can become continuous. Flare ups can last varying amounts of time and be followed by a varying pain-free period.
TMJ syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms in different areas. Areas in and around the ear are often involved, as well as the forehead, temple, neck and cheek. TMJ syndrome is often due to misalignment or overuse of the jaw and can cause a “clicking” or “crunching” sound with movement of the jaw (eating, yawning, opera singing, etc.). This itself can cause headaches and can cause an achy and weak feeling. Symptoms are often continuous but are amplified by jaw movement.
It is important to treat the root cause of these conditions, not just cover up the pain with painkillers (although, they come in handy in the short term!) I have a passion for treating pain syndromes like these. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, book an appointment with me so you can start feeling better now!
Check out Part II coming soon for some more insights!
Dr. Michelle Gaucher