14 Things You Must Know About Ice Pick Headache
Ice pick headache feels like a sharp object has just stabbed you in the eye.
Here’s what you must know…
1. It’s Very Brief – away as quick as it came
Ice pick headaches lasts about one second – three seconds at most
2. Occurs out of the blue
It is not provoked by coughing or exercise. It just randomly happens. No warning at all.
3. Feels completely different to Migraine
You won’t feel sick, avoid light, hate smell or move away from noise. However, if you get a bad Ice Pick Headache a Migraine can follow if you are prone to Migraines. A dull headache can stay for up to an hour after an Ice Pick Headache.
4. Keeps coming back
Some people experience a shower of sudden ice-picks over a few minutes then none for hours or days – called ‘volleys’ of Ice Pick Headache. Most people get a few over a few hours or days then none for weeks or months.
5. Is so intense you clutch your head
You may wince. Some people drop to their knees or stumble – it’s so painful.
6. Makes you shout out with pain
It can be so sore you embarrass yourself in public going “OUCH!”
7. Is often mis-diagnosed as Trigeminal Neuralgia
Ice Pick Headache is a random pain.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is triggered by touch, chewing or a breeze.
8. Makes you worry something dangerous is going on
It is hard to imaging that a pain so severe is not caused by ‘something’. If you have a normal eye and neurological examination then you can be reassured.
9. Is Common
One in 50 people each year get frequent Ice Pick Headaches.
One in 3 people will have at least one Ice Pick Headache in their lifetime.
10. Can Occur at Any Age
Teenagers, young, middle aged and older persons can all get these.
11. Has no known cause
If you have Migraine or Cluster Headache you are more likely to get Ice Pick Headaches.
People with a history of neck stiffness, pain or neck injury also report Ice Pick Headaches – so get checked by an osteopath or physiotherapist.
12. Doesn’t mean you need a brain scan
It’s human nature to feel afraid when you get a severe pain. However, this pain is not a reason for brain scan, as it is not linked to dangerous brain disease.
13. Is a Symptom People Refuse to Treat
Most people are happy with an explanation.
This is a great example of being able to cope better if you feel safe – which is a better option that using lots of drugs.
14. Has No Proven Treatment, but a few things are worth a go
A few experts decided on the drugs for Ice Pick Headaches. We do not have clinical trials to judge best treatment. If you are going to try these it must be under medical supervision for a defined length of time. Do not end up on these drugs long term.
Indomethacin, Naproxen, Diclofenac or Etoricoxib are strong anti-inflammatories that require a doctors prescription.
Gabapentin, Amitryptiline and Pregabalin are prescription only medicines used for sharp pains like Ice Pick Headache.
Some people offer Melatonin.
What Should I do Next?
Don’t panic. In almost every case, no cause for the headaches is found.
If you get this symptom for the first time you need to see your own doctor, and I also advise seeing an optician for an eye examination.
In practice, as soon as I hear the history of ice pick headache, I usually breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that I should be able to reassure my patient.
The first step is to explain the condition, which is reassuring.
The treatments, if needed, will require prescription as the drugs mentioned above can be dangerous depending upon your own medical and allergy history.
If you are struggling with headaches I’ve written an easy-to-follow guide based on the best way to get in control of headaches.
Other resources for you:
Feel Safe:Your First Step in Taking Control of Headaches
Is Your Headache Dangerous?
Headache Symptoms that Matter
by Dr Raeburn Forbes MD(Hons)
Free PDF Download