An ice pick headache is a severe, painful type that arises abruptly. It is often described as a stabbing blow or series of stabs from an ice pick. In most cases, there is no warning and can be debilitating. Luckily, an episode is brief, usually lasting no longer than a minute.
A headache can occur any time during sleep or waking hours. It can arise several times in a day and transfer from one site in the head to another.
What are the indications?
An ice pick headache can be categorized on several symptoms such as:
- Abrupt, stabbing pain in the head that lasts for 5-10 seconds
- Discomfort that is moderately severe to intense
- Stabbing sensation can occur once or several times as waves for several hours without warning
- The sensation can occur up to 50 times in a day
- Pain can be felt on the front, top or sides of the head
- The sensation can occur in several sites in the head, one at a time
What is the cause?
The root cause of an ice pick headache is still unknown but believed to be linked to brief disruptions inside the central pain control mechanisms of the brain.
The headaches can arise in 2 forms – primary or secondary.
- Primary – occurs without any evident cause
- Secondary – occurs due to an underlying health condition such as shingles or Bell’s palsy
Management of an ice pick headache
An ice pick headache is generally brief. If an individual is prone to repeated episodes, prophylactic use of pain medications might be suggested.
Some of the drugs that the doctor might prescribe include:
- Indomethacin – this is an oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that blocks inflammation to lessen the pain.
- Melatonin – this is available over-the-counter and given to reduce insomnia as well as headaches
- Gabapentin – this is a prescription drug mainly used as an anticonvulsant and to manage nerve pain
What is the outlook?
An ice pick headache does not have a specific cause or trigger. It might be brought about by irregularities in the central pain control mechanisms within the brain.
Those who have migraines or cluster headaches as well as women are likely to experience this type of headache than others.
This headache is not dangerous but can be debilitating. If it starts to disrupt with the quality of life, a doctor must be consulted for further assessment.