Have a headache every damn day? Your daily persistent headaches might be trying to tell you something besides the need for over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and an ice pack.
Let’s break down what constant headache actually is, what’s causing it, and how the heck you can treat it.
Chronic daily headache is a diagnosis that’s made if you have more than 15 headache days per month for 3 or more months. These headaches don’t have to occur days in a row, and can last less than or more than 4 hours per day.
So it’s possible you may have a day of pain, and the next day feel just fine, only to get the headache back in the following days.
The World Health Organization reports chronic daily headache affects about 1.7 to 4 percent of all adults every month. There are many types of chronic daily headache, including:
- Tension headaches. These feel like you’re wearing a really tight headband.
- Cluster headaches. Can happen on and off for weeks or months, and can cause severe pain on one side of your head along with other symptoms.
- Migraine. Cause intense pain on one or both sides of the head with other symptoms such as light and or sound sensitivity as well as nausea.
- Hemicranima continua. A chronic headache that only occurs on one side of the head and feels like migraine.
- Rebound headaches. Overusing OTC pain relievers can cause a chronic headache that feels like a dull, tension-like headache or intense like a migraine.
Symptoms of constant headache can go beyond discomfort. Depending on the type of headache, symptoms can include:
- mild to severe head pain on either side of your head that pulses, throbs, or feels tight
- nausea or vomiting
- sensitivity to lights or sounds
- stuffy or runny nose
- eye redness or tearing up
If you seem to have a headache every 👏 single 👏 day, there are a variety of reasons why this could keep happening. Possible causes for the ongoing agony may include:
- muscle tension in the head and neck
- irritation of the trigeminal nerve in the face, which can cause facial pain
- irritation of the occipital nerve in the back of the head
- hormone level shifts
- environmental factors, like changes in weather
- poor diet or withdrawal of caffeine
- sleep deprivation
- pain medication overuse, which causes medication overuse headache or rebound headache
- lack of sleep
- snoring and other sleep problems
Chronic daily headache can make your eyes sore depending on the type of headache you have.
A migraine is commonly be felt behind the eye and can last for days.
Cluster headaches can occur behind the eye, and are known to last for extended periods of time — some as long as 6 weeks.
Tension headaches can also be felt by the eye, but typically feel like having a tight band around the head — and that sensation can go behind the eye area. As the name implies, stress may cause these, as well as bad posture.
A primary doctor or a neurologist can help you figure out what’s going on with your constant headaches. At first, your doc will try to find out what has been causing the pain.
To see if you have chronic daily headache, doctors usually take into account your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Lab tests or scans could also be involved.
Doctors will also try to rule out secondary causes of headache like:
- infections, such as meningitis or a sinus infection
- obstructive sleep apnea
- medication overuse
- side effects from other meds
- neuralgias (really sharp pain along a nerve)
- traumatic brain injury
- brain tumors
- pressure that is too high or too low in the head
If the doctor can’t find out what the underlying cause is, they can still prescribe treatment that focuses on preventing headache pain.
There are both medication and non-medication options that can help you cope with chronic daily headache.
Treatments for chronic daily headache can include any of the following:
- Medications. Your doc may prescribe antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), beta-blockers, or anti-seizure medications. Botox injections are sometimes a medication option as well.
- Behavioral therapy. This can help you come to grips with the mental causes and effects of your headaches, and give you tips on how to cope.
- Biofeedback. Using monitoring devices can track blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension — things that can impact the frequency and severity of daily persistent headaches.
- Occipital nerve stimulation. This surgical procedure involves putting a device in your head to stimulate the occipital nerve, which may alleviate the pain.
- Acupuncture. If you can deal with never-ending headache pain, temporarily inserting thin needles into your body may not seem so bad for potential pain relief.
- Massage. A good rubdown may ease muscle tension.
- Essential oils. Some research has shown that plants such as eucalyptus, ginger, and lavender may provide relief.
- Lifestyle changes. Sleeping well, eating well, exercising regularly, ditching tobacco, and easing up on your caffeine intake may rid you of constant headache once and for all.
- Manage your stress. Some studies have shown that meditation can reduce the number of headaches in people with chronic migraine.
If a constant headache has you convinced something sinister is behind your pain (like a brain tumor) you should see a doctor. Not only can they help you figure out what’s going on, but it may give you some peace of mind knowing what you’re dealing with.
A headache can be a sign of stroke or meningitis, so it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion if you experience them a lot.
Call your doctor if you:
- get headaches three or more times a week
- use OTC pain meds almost daily to control them
- don’t see symptom improvement when you take meds
- notice that strenuous activity or physical exertion triggers headaches
- your headaches are interfering with your daily activities
Hightail it to the emergency room if:
- the headache comes on suddenly
- you have a high fever, stiff neck, nausea, or vomiting
- it involves numbness, confusion, or other neurological issues
- it happens after a head injury