Monday, October 5, 2015


Majority of my journey revolving around Neurofibromatosis has to do with my chronic pain from daily chronic headaches. Can you believe I've seen approximately 32 physicians to try and figure out why I have such horrible headaches? Did you know that there are approximately 150 different types of headaches, making it extremely difficult in some cases to come up with a diagnosis?!

Unfortunately, I do not have the time nor the resources to discuss each type of headache, I decided I would cover 3 of the most common types.... so here we go!

1. Tension headaches (most common type)

  • Description: Tension headaches are frequently described as a mild to moderate pain that mimics the feeling of a tight band being squeezed around the head
  • Signs and Symptoms
    Dull, aching head pain
    - Tenderness to the neck, scalp and muscles of the shoulder
    - Sensation of pressure and/or tightness across the forehead or on the sides and back of your head
  • Cause(s): Although tension headaches are the most common type of headache seen, there is very little known about what causes them. Medical professionals used to think the cause was intense muscle contractions in the scalp, neck and face that resulted from environmental factors such as stress or muscle tension. There is currently lots of research being done to find the route of the cause!!!!
  • Trigger(s): Stress is the biggest trigger for this type of headache 
  • Treatment(s): Medications are typically one of the first-line treatments for this type of headache. Many different kinds of medications are used, ranging from over the counter drugs such as Advil. to narcotics like Percocet and in some cases specific antidepressants or anti-seizure medications can help control the pain. Remember to ALWAYS talk to your doctor before starting any medication regime! Some alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage therapy can be utilized to manage pain.

2. Sinus headaches
  • Description: When you have a sinus headache, you may feel like there is a lot of pressure around your eyes, forehead and cheeks. 
  • Signs and Symptoms
    Worsening pain in your head if you bend down
    - Fatigue
    - Stuffy feeling in your nose
    ** tends to mimic a sinus infection**
  • Cause(s): Typically these kinds of headaches are caused by inflammation in the sinuses. Inflammation can be caused by many different things.... it may be a chronic problem with no underlying cause or it could be caused by something like a sinus infection or allergic reaction
  • Trigger(s): There isn't a specific trigger that causes inflammation in the nasal passages, instead it is a combination of factors (discussed above in "causes") 
  • Treatment(s): Treatment for sinus headaches depends on the underlying cause. If the sinus headache is caused by an infection, then antibiotics are typically prescribed. Otherwise, over the counter medications like Advil and Motrin may work. 
** It's important to know that migraine and tension headaches are often misdiagnosed as sinus headaches... make sure you are confident in your doctors diagnosis before seeking treatment for a sinus headache! **

3. Migraine headaches

  • Description: Migraines can be some of the most debilitating kinds of headaches. A migraine is associated with an "intense" throbbing or pulsating sensation located in one area of the head. Some migraines are accompanied by something called an "aura", which can be things like seeing flashes of light, experiencing blind spots in vision, or a tingling sensation in the arms or legs  
  • Signs and Symptoms: People who experience migraines tend to have different signs and symptoms, however the following tend to be the most common:
    - Sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smells
    - Nausea and/or vomiting
    - Blurred vision
    - Feelings of lightheadedness, which may or may not be accompanied with fainting
  • Cause(s): Although migraines remain relatively not well understood, researchers believe that migraine headaches have genetic and environmental factors. it is estimated that a child has a 50% chance of developing migraines if one of their parents has a history of migraines, and a 70% chance of developing migraines if BOTH of their parents have them. It is also thought changes in brain chemicals may cause this type of headache. 
  • Trigger(s): Many triggers are associated with migraines, examples include: hormonal changes in women, foods and additives (like aspartame) in foods, alcohol, stress, changes in the environment (like the weather) and changes in sleep patterns (getting too much or not enough sleep)
  • Treatment(s): Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraine headaches. Like the other types of headaches discussed in this post, medications are the primary form of treatment. Effective medications include over the counter medications, anti-nausea medications, medications that have caffeine in them (these belong to a family called the "Ergots") and opioid medications that contain codeine 

Thanks for reading everyone! Remember, ALWAYS consult with your doctor before starting on any medication regime for your headaches. Many of the medications I mentioned are only available with a prescription and some can be dangerous when combined with other medications!



1 comment:

  1. 132 kinds of headaches? Wow! I hope that someday they find some relief for your headaches. I don't have the first three by the way but I do get headaches. Great post.