Helping you find relief
If the pain of chronic headaches is affecting your daily life, the neurologists at Penn State Health can help you find relief.
Headaches are the most common form of pain. They can occur on one or both sides of your head and may be experienced in several ways, including dull ache, throbbing discomfort or sharp pain. Some headaches develop slowly throughout the day. Others come on suddenly with no apparent warning signs. Headaches are considered chronic if they occur at least 15 days a month for three or more months. There are three main types: secondary, primary and chronic. Secondary headaches are those in which headache is a symptom of some other condition or disease. Primary headaches are those in which the headache defines the condition or diagnosis e.g. migraine.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook
Primary headaches occur independently and are not symptoms of an underlying health condition. Common types of primary headaches include:
- Migraine: severe pain that throbs, pulsates or pounds and usually occurs with other symptoms like light or noise sensitivity and nausea. Headaches can be triggered by certain foods or activities and may be associated with an aura.
- Tension: dull or squeezing pain, like a vise or tight band around your head that is often associated with stress and muscle tightness. Pain typically affects the back and both sides of your head and may also involve your shoulders, jaw or neck.
- Cluster: severe pain around one of your eyes experienced more frequently by men than women. Pain lasts for periods of 15 minutes to three hours throughout your day. Attacks may occur daily for weeks or months and then disappear for one month or longer before reoccurring.
- Trigeminal neuralgia: sudden burning or severe shooting pain on one side of your face. Headaches can occur throughout your day and may be triggered by movement like talking, drinking, eating, laughing or brushing your teeth.
Secondary headaches are caused by another health issue. The headache is a symptom of the disease. Common types of secondary headaches include:
- Allergies and sinusitis: painful, throbbing pressure that forms around your eyes, forehead and cheeks and often worsens as you bend forward.
- Post-traumatic: dull ache, vertigo and lightheadedness with memory loss and irritability that occurs two to three days after a head injury.
- Rebound: potentially disabling pain caused by frequent or excessive use of pain relieving or anti-migraine drugs.
No matter what type of headaches you’re experiencing, Penn State Health provides the advanced diagnosis and treatment options you need to find relief.
Preventive Headache Treatment
If you experience headaches four or more times a month, our experts may recommend preventive measures to relieve your pain and deter additional attacks, including:
- Prescription medication
- Dietary supplements like melatonin or B2
- Biofeedback training
- Botox injections
- Lifestyle changes like diet modification and relaxation training
- Cefaly device
- Spring TMS device
Abortive Headache Treatment
Abortive headache treatment keeps your headache from getting worse or stops it before it starts. Treatment is available by mouth, nasal spray, Cefaly or Spring TMS devices or self-injection. It can be an effective form of relief if you have headache-related nausea and vomiting.
Treatment options include:
- Prescription medication
- Nerve blocks
- Oxygen therapy
Diagnosis starts with a thorough physical examination and review of your medical history. Our neurology experts take the time to understand your headaches - when they started, how long they last, how often they occur, etc. - and use that information to determine what, if any, further testing is needed to get to the root of your problem.
Tests may include:
- Bloodwork and/or lumbar puncture
- Neurological exam that tests your brain function, nerves, eyes, muscular strength and reflexes
- Sinus X-rays
- Advanced imaging like CT or MRI scans to rule out serious conditions like stroke, tumor or multiple sclerosis
If you suffer from chronic headaches, an accurate diagnosis and treatment tailored to your individual needs can often provide lasting relief. Our team can help you pinpoint the cause of your headaches and give you the strategies you need to get them under control.
Experts in Care
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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care
The multidisciplinary general neurology team at Penn State Health offers cohesive, comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care to help you manage headache, weakness and sensory dysfunction. Our high level of expertise helps patients throughout the state achieve better health and quality of life.
Your care team may include:
- Board-certified neurologists
- Physicians in related specialties
- Medical researchers
- Physician assistants
- Nurse practitioners
- Highly skilled support staff
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.Find a location near you