Get to the bottom of your chronic head pain and associated symptoms and find relief by calling 347-602-9530 for an appointment with a headache specialist in NYC.
Everyone gets headaches every now and then. Whether due to illness, stress, tension, or dehydration, most headaches go away after a while with some rest or a dose of over-the-counter medication. However, when headaches become chronic and debilitating to the point where they disrupt your life, it’s time to make an appointment at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. to see a trusted headache doctor in NYC.
Serving patients from all five boroughs and Long Island, the compassionate providers at this specialty practice will diagnose the type and underlying causes of chronic, severe headaches and recommend effective treatments. With experience treating all types of headache disorders, the providers can address your unique symptoms with a personalized treatment plan that allows you to have more headache-free days and regain control of your life.
There are two main categories of headache: primary and secondary.
When you have a primary headache, it’s the main issue and not the result of another illness or condition. Although this can cause extreme discomfort and distress and prevent you from engaging in your usual activities, primary headaches aren’t dangerous to your overall health or well-being.
Primary headaches are a reaction to inflammation in the pain-sensitive nerves, muscles, or blood vessels in and around your head and neck. The brain cannot actually feel pain, so even though your head hurts, there’s not necessarily anything specifically wrong with it. The correct treatment can alleviate the inflammation and provide relief.
Meanwhile, secondary headaches are those associated with another condition that triggers the pain receptors around the head and neck. Usually, this pain is sudden, excruciating, and totally debilitating. These headaches are dangerous and require immediate medical intervention, as they indicate a serious problem like stroke, meningitis, a head injury, brain tumor, or aneurysm.
Most people who seek treatment from a headache specialist in NYC have a primary headache disorder. Secondary headache pain is typically so severe that it necessitates emergency medical treatment.
Some headaches are mild, causing nothing more than a dull ache. Others are more severe, making it impossible to do much more than lie in a dark, quiet space until the pain subsides.
In either case, the processes that cause the discomfort are the same. The culprit is the nociceptors, the pain-sensitive nerve endings that communicate with the trigeminal nerve, which sends messages to the thalamus about the different sensations.
Essentially, the process works like this: when you come in contact with a headache trigger (such as odors, noises, food, medication, stress, etc.), the nociceptors alert the trigeminal nerve. This cranial nerve receives information about the state of your head and neck (like touch sensations, pain, and vibrations) from the brain. In the brain, the thalamus relays those messages to other parts of the body that manage your experience of pain and how you respond.
The thalamus also controls how you respond to noise and light, which is why a headache can send you in search of a dark and quiet place when your head is pounding. It also sends a message to your digestive system, which is why you might feel nauseous, vomit, or have diarrhea when you have a headache. Pain sensations sent by the thalamus can also affect your ability to concentrate and other neurological functions.
Even if you typically have mild headaches, you don’t have to live with the constant pain. An NYC headache doctor can get to the bottom of the problem and develop a treatment plan that reduces headache frequency and severity so you can enjoy your regular activities.
Not all headaches are the same. Everyone experiences them differently based on factors like:
Headache specialists in NYC also use this information to help diagnose specific disorders and guide treatment plans. Although everyone’s condition is different, these primary headache disorders typically fall into one of four categories: tension, migraine, cluster, and hypnic.
Tension-type headaches are the most common, with researchers estimating that 70% of adults, particularly women, experience them at some point. Since they are typically mild and easily treated with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers, most people don’t see their doctors for the occasional headache. It’s only when they become constant and debilitating that individuals talk to their doctor or make an appointment with a headache specialist in NYC.
As the name implies, tension-type headaches are due to stress, mental or emotional distress, or a physical issue that causes one to contract the muscles in the head, neck, scalp, and jaw for extended periods, resulting in painful muscle tension. The pain typically occurs on both sides of the head or on the face and feels like constant pressure or tightening.
Tension headaches can also make you sensitive to lights and sound and cause nausea, but that’s rare. Although these headaches only happen occasionally, they can become a more frequent problem for some, especially those with conditions like sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, or extreme stress.
Depending on how often you experience pain, doctors categorize tension headache disorders as episodic or chronic. Episodic tension headaches occur ten to 15 days per month and are typically short-lived and mild to moderate. The issue becomes chronic when the number of attacks increases to 15 to 30 days per month, and the severity of the pain increases to the point of causing disability.
Since these headaches can be the symptom of another issue, like sleep apnea or a musculoskeletal condition, treatment usually begins by diagnosing and treating (or ruling out) those underlying conditions. Otherwise, treatment typically involves medication, stress management, physical therapy, biofeedback, and relaxation training.
Migraine headaches cause moderate to severe throbbing pain on one side of the head. Attacks, which may last up to 72 hours, can also cause extreme light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting. Many people experience a pre-headache “aura” or visual, sensory, or motor disturbances just before an attack.
A migraine is the result of irritation and activation of the nerves inside the blood vessels traveling into the brain. Triggers can include everything from physical activity or sleep disturbances to overpowering odors, certain foods, anxiety and depression, stress, hormones, and medication. Treatment often starts with identifying these triggers so you can avoid them, especially food and drink, since many preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine often cause migraines.
Other migraine treatment options include medication, lifestyle changes, biofeedback, and relaxation therapy.
The most painful type of primary headache clusters are sudden, extreme, and short-lived episodes that occur repeatedly around the same time (often at night) for several days or weeks.
Most cluster headaches occur on one side of the head, often right behind the eye or in the forehead. Some people experience migraine-like auras or nausea before a cluster headache, but for most people, the pain strikes without warning. The pain typically peaks within a few minutes and may last up to three hours, during which time the nose and eye on that side of the face might swell, turn red, or get teary.
Cluster headaches are more common in men, especially among those who smoke. Researchers also suspect there could be a genetic component in who gets these headaches. Drinking alcohol (particularly red wine) and previous head injuries are also common among those who experience these headaches.
What makes these headaches different from migraines is the shorter duration and the fact that most people have periods of several cluster headaches a day for a few weeks, followed by several months without any. Treatment usually requires medication, although some people with more severe or chronic disorders work with a headache specialist in NYC and undergo more extreme therapies, including nerve stimulation, oxygen therapy, or surgery to damage or cut specific facial nerves.
The rarest form of primary headache, hypnic-type, typically affects older people. They come on fast, similar to cluster headaches, but affect the entire head and only occur at night. Unlike cluster headaches, they don’t cause a runny nose or watery eyes.
Since these headaches are short-lived (most last less than an hour), doctors don’t typically prescribe specific medication or treatments for them.
Headache specialists also diagnose other rare types of headache disorders, including:
Not all headaches are due to a disorder or chronic issues. So-called “brain freezes” or ice cream headaches and exertional headaches, for example, are common and short-lived episodes of pain that go away on their own and don’t require medical intervention. The same goes for ice-pick or stabbing headaches, which sound frightening but typically only cause a few seconds of intense pain.
Medication overuse is also a common source of headaches. Typically, these are rebound headaches resulting from taking too much pain medicine to deal with acute headaches, either over the course of several days or taking more than the recommended amount. Taking too much of any medication (even over-the-counter pills) can reduce its effectiveness and cause more pain.
Doctors typically deal with medication overuse headaches by tapering the dosage or substituting a different medication or treatment. If you take a pain reliever for a headache, only use the recommended amount and avoid taking the drug for more than two days or longer than directed on the label. Talk to a doctor if you need to take medicine for a headache on a regular basis.
Although not technically caused by a disorder, you should see a doctor or headache specialist about chronic daily headaches. These are mild to moderate headaches that occur at least 15 days a month for at least three months and may include migraine-like symptoms. This condition doesn’t have a clear cause and may go away on its own after a few months or respond to medications, but it’s vital to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes.
Because headaches are so common, many people aren’t sure whether they need to see a specialist for help managing them. However, there are some signs that making an appointment with a provider who specializes in these conditions is in order.
The American Migraine Foundation advises seeking medical treatment when:
While you should always talk to your primary care provider about your headaches first, a specialist has in-depth knowledge of diagnosing and treating head pain and associated conditions. For pain that is severe, incapacitating, or unresponsive to other treatment approaches, this focused care can make the difference between managing your condition or suffering with ongoing distress.
Sometimes, you cannot afford to wait to see an NYC headache doctor.
As previously mentioned, secondary headaches are a sign or symptom of another medical issue and usually come on suddenly and with extreme pain. Call 911 or seek emergency medical care immediately if you experience sudden headache pain along with:
Depending on the severity and frequency of your headaches, a specialist will utilize multiple approaches and diagnostic methods to find the source of your pain.
During your first visit, expect to review your complete medical history, including a family history of headache disorders. Your doctor will ask for details about your pain and perform thorough physical and neurological examinations to look for signs of a musculoskeletal or nerve issue. Additional testing may include blood and urine screenings to check for infections, toxins, or blood vessel damage that could be affecting the nervous system and causing your condition.
Diagnosing a disorder may also require imaging tests. An electroencephalogram (EEG) measures your brain wave activity before, during, and after attacks to see what’s happening and look for signs of secondary conditions like inflammation, injury, tumors, or seizures that can cause headaches. The doctor may also order an MRI or CT scan to identify blood vessel or bone irregularities, cysts, tumors, brain hemorrhage, brain damage from injury, infection, or inflammation.
Your examination and testing results guide the provider toward an accurate diagnosis and help them develop the best treatment approach. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Your doctor is here to help and wants you to have all the information you need to manage your condition and live as pain-free as possible.
If you’re dealing with chronic head pain, one of the best things you can do to support an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan is to keep a headache diary or log. Jotting down some basic information about your experiences will help you and your doctor identify patterns and triggers and help create a path toward more pain-free days and ongoing relief.
Every time you have a headache, be sure to jot down:
Unfortunately, many people don’t see a doctor for their headaches. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, only about 40% of people actually receive a medical diagnosis for their migraine or tension-type headache disorders. Because primary headaches are typically short-term issues that don’t cause death, most people self-diagnose and rely on over-the-counter treatments and self-care to manage the pain.
The problem with this approach is that although at-home treatment can help with the occasional headache, a headache disorder can be so disruptive that it keeps people from work or school and affects their quality of life. Given that only about 50% of adults in the U.S. and the UK make appointments with medical providers about their headaches, a lot of people are suffering needlessly.
Seeing a headache specialist about your concerns ensures an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Depending on the specific condition, treatment protocols may include:
Only in rare cases do NYC headache doctors recommend more extreme treatments, like surgery, narcotics, or opioids.
There’s no need to live with the debilitating and disruptive pain that chronic, severe headaches can cause. Get help from a headache specialist at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., and start living a more pain-free and comfortable life. With convenient locations throughout the city and on Long Island, it’s easy to see a headache specialist in NYC and get the help you need.
To make an appointment, fill out our online form or call (347) 602-9530 to speak with a friendly team member. Our doctors accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). Same-day appointments may be available.
We also offer traumatic brain injury treatment to help you recover from more serious head injuries.
The National Headache Foundation notes that children can also develop headache disorders; about 20% of kids ages 5 to 17 are prone to headaches, and of those, about 5% have a migraine disorder. Parents should be aware of their children’s headaches and seek treatment for frequent or severe pain.
It is possible, and quite common, for individuals to have more than one type of headache. For example, many people experience a combination of a migraine with a tension-type headache.
The onset of a migraine headache sometimes mimics the symptoms of a stroke, leading many people to fear that the disorder will increase their stroke risk. However, although migraines are a risk factor for people under age 40, over the course of your life, you actually have a lower risk of dying from a cerebrovascular stroke if you have migraines.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms after a traumatic brain injury. Seeking traumatic brain injury treatment from a headache specialist in NYC can help reduce the risk of ongoing symptoms and manage the pain and discomfort of frequent debilitating headaches.