What causes headaches?
Headaches are typically treated as a medical condition under its own classification. However, headaches are almost always a symptom of another underlying medical condition. In fact, there are literally thousands of conditions that have headache as a possible symptom and alternatively, thousands of medications that have headaches as a side effect. In some cases, medications used to treat or prevent headaches can have chronic headaches as a potential side effect.
Finding the cause of your chronic headache pain can be difficult. There are several preliminary questions and tests that must be done before moving forward. First things first; everything starts with a thorough physical examination by Dr. Cassaro. By physically examining sensitive structures in the back and neck, Dr. Cassaro can better determine the source of your headache pain. Additionally, Dr. Cassaro will provide in-depth diagnostic testing to look inside your body to see what may be causing your head pain.
Here are some of the most common causes of headache pain:
- Arthritis – Arthritis in the many joints of the neck is a very common cause of headaches that either won’t go away or seem to get worse over time. Sometimes, headaches that are diagnosed as tension headaches, cluster headaches and even migraines are all actually caused by arthritis in the neck. Arthritis can be diagnosed when a headache doctor performs a thorough physical examination and possibly MRI’s, x-rays and nerve testing.
- Toxins – Toxins in the environment can cause headaches and migraines. Sometimes these toxins are obvious; for instance, if your job requires you to use strong cleaners or chemicals. Other times, toxins are disguised in the form of air fresheners, detergents and other airborne pollutants.
- Whiplash – Whiplash injuries account for a great deal of head pain. This pain can come years after the initial injury and can cause head pain and migraines. Finding out if the cause of your headache may be due to a previous whiplash injury can be challenging. It takes a headache specialist to factor in all possibilities and to know where to look for these previous injuries.
- Medications – Medications can definitely cause headaches as a side effect. It is estimated that around 80-90% of all medications (over-the-counter and prescription) have headaches as a possible side effect. Headaches become even more likely if you mix medications. Since there are millions of medication combinations, there is little or no data between mixing medications and headaches. Additionally, most medications prescribed to treat headaches have headaches listed as a possible side effect. Dr. Cassaro can evaluate your medications and decide a course of action for eliminating the headaches without medications.
- Nerve damage – Nerve damage or nerve irritation can cause lots of head pain. Nerves can become damaged, irritated or inflamed for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is because of trauma and other times it may be due to problems internally like bone spurs or degeneration of the spine.
- Hormones – Hormone imbalances can cause headaches and migraines. Hormones can become irregular for a number of reasons. Diet, exercise, pregnancy and other influences can change hormone levels drastically. Sometimes it is very obvious that certain hormone levels are out of balance and thus causing head pain. Other times, it takes specialized testing by a headache doctor to skillfully look at the complete endocrine system and discover fractional imbalances of hormones. After the cause of your headache is found, the most effective treatment for your head pain can begin.
- Stress – Stress, in any form, can lead to severe chronic daily headaches. Stress, among other things, causes the release of cortisol. This is especially true with emotional or psychological stress. Cortisol is a chemical your body produces in the event that your immediate environment creates anxiety. It is part of the “fight-or-flight” response system. In small quantities, it is beneficial. When we are exposed to too much stress, it can lead to long-lasting headache pain. There are several approaches that Dr. Cassaro uses to correct stress-induced headaches. Contact us today to see what solutions would work best for your chronic headache pain.
- Circulation – Circulation, including problems with arteries and blood flow can cause head pain. Usually the circulatory problems are caused by one or more medications. Other times, there is an underlying issue that needs further testing and analysis.
- Muscle spasms – Muscle spasms can cause head pain and migraines. In fact, it is usually the muscles that tense up in a tension type headache. Migraine episodes involve muscular spasms as well. Muscle spasms can be caused by pinched nerves or other nerve injuries, nutritional deficiencies and neurological conditions. Muscle spasms in the neck can definitely cause chronic headache pain.
- Nutritional deficiencies – Nutritional deficiencies are a very common cause of frequent headaches. Most people like to think they eat a diet that provides all necessary vitamins and minerals. In reality, even people who eat several servings of vegetables in a day and eat lean meats may be malnourished. This is for several reasons, but the most simple of answers is twofold. One, you can eat as healthy as you like, but if you have a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome, your body is not absorbing the nutrients from the food you eat; no matter how much you eat. Headaches are very common with irritable bowel syndrome. Second, food is not as healthy as it used to be. In addition to that, it may be loaded with pesticides, colorings, food additives and toxins. These can also cause headaches and migraines.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – IBS and headaches go hand-in-hand. Most people with IBS know this fact all to well. Headaches with Irritable Bowel Syndrome are usually linked to two main aspects of this digestive disorder; the first one being absorption. If your intestines are inflamed, the capacity for them to properly digest and extract nutrients from food is greatly diminished. Secondly, constipation is a primary complaint with IBS. When you are constipated for long periods of time, your body begins to reabsorb the toxins in your waste. These toxins circulate through the body and aggravate nerves. This causes head pain and migraines. If the underlying digestive disorder is addressed properly, the headaches usually subside.
This is a great start to what causes headaches, but in reality there are too many possible causes for headaches to list. Also, some people have a combination of underlying causes for their headache pain. That is where a headache doctor like Dr. Cassaro can help. With over 25 years of experience treating headache and migraine pain, Dr. Cassaro can treat your chronic pain effectively.
Taking The Next Step
If you are serious about getting permanent relief from your chronic headache pain, set up a consultation with Dr. Cassaro:
Dr. Cassaro is the top pain treatment expert in the country. If you have chronic pain, Painless Living can help. Dr. Cassaro will set up a consultation regarding neurostimulation and spinal cord stimulators (SCS). After a thorough review of your medical records and a thorough examination, it may be determined that you are a candidate for neurostimulation. Scheduling the procedure and recovery will be discussed and you will be on your way to living a pain-free life!