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Ice Pick Headaches

Understanding Ice Pick Headaches & it’s Typical Symptoms


The ice pick headaches are the type of headache that causes quick jolts that cause stabbing pain. Most often, it affects the sides and fronts of the skull. It can start suddenly or slowly and last for just a few seconds or a couple of days.

Doctors often refer to this disorder as idiopathic stab headache primary stabbing headache (PSH) or ophthalmodynia periodica.

The ice pick headache can be characterized by a sharp discomfort, an aching feeling, or a dull pain. It may develop slowly or suddenly and be present for a short amount of time or for several days.

This article provides a summary of the typical causes of an ice-pick headache, as well as the typical signs. The article also discusses the treatment options and the difference between ice-pick headache and migraine.

Symptoms associated with Ice Pick Headaches:

The pain that is associated with ice pick headaches tends to last just several seconds. For some people, however, it could last up to a minute.

The headache can also shift from one location to the next on the opposite or similar side of the head.

Ice pick headaches can occur in those who suffer from migraines. Sometimes, migraine can be associated when you have ice pick headaches.

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Causes of Ice Pick Headaches:

Researchers aren’t always able to pinpoint the exact reason behind an ice-pick headache. For every person who suffers from headaches, the reason could be different.

Researchers suggest that these headaches are caused by chemical activity within neurons, the brain, or blood vessels around the skull. The muscles of the neck and head could also play a part.

In some instances, people might have a genetic condition that causes them to be more susceptible to suffering from headaches. This is more prevalent in those who have a history of migraine.

The trigger could be idiopathic. This means that the trigger is either unintentional or not known. In other instances, it could be that particular triggers are primary or secondary.

The Primary Triggers:

Certain life events can cause Ice-pick headaches.

These include:

  • Changes in one’s sleeping pattern or inability to sleep
  • Cold or heat
  • Fatigue
  • Alcohol consumption

Secondary triggers:

While doctors can refer to ice pick headaches generally as PSH the condition could also be caused by secondary triggers. In this instance, headaches are indicative of a more serious health issue.

Certain conditions that could be caused by stabbing headaches are:

  • Meningoencephalitis of the herpes zoster family which is a result of shingles.
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Meningioma is one of the types of noncancerous tumors.

Migraine Headaches vs. Ice Pick Headaches

Although migraines and ice pick headaches can be present together,  this is not always the case, and these conditions are not the same.  If they do occur in conjunction, one might experience a mix of symptoms from both.

Migraine may trigger recurrent episodes of severe to moderate discomfort. One might refer to the discomfort as pulsing or throbbing generally, and it is felt on the one side of the head.

The peoples who suffer from migraine episodes typically experience additional symptoms, including sensitization to sound and light. A lot of people also experience vomiting and nausea.

While the signs and symptoms of migraine are different from those of ice-pick headaches, similar elements can trigger both types of headaches which include:

  • Anxiety
  • The lack of food or lack of sleep
  • Exposure to light
  • Drinking coffee or alcohol
  • Hormone changes (in women)

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The Signs of Strokes:

A headache could be a sign of the possibility of something much more dangerous, for instance, meningitis or a stroke. It is important to seek medical attention when they experience headaches following the victim has suffered an injury to their head.

A severe headache needs immediate medical attention if it is caused by one of the following:

  • A high fever
  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulties in speaking, seeing, or difficulty walking


Treatment for a type of headache which is known as ice pick headache isn’t easy. Because the pain is short, medications like painkillers do not usually aid. This type of headache can happen once or twice a day, and at intervals of regularity, however, they don’t last for long.

But, those who suffer from numerous painful episodes might be interested in trying some of the treatment options available.

Indomethacin can be described as a Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory medication that is effective in treating ice pick headaches. Other alternatives include Gabapentin and Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors and Melatonin.

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In the majority of cases, individuals can perform their normal activities when they have Ice-pick headaches.

However, one should seek medical attention if symptoms become more severe, intensify the frequency of their symptoms, or start to disrupt their normal activities, like sleeping or working.

The doctor can look over the patient’s medical history and formulate the best treatment strategy.

Ask your friends and loved ones for support.

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…

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