Nerve Pain in Head: A Different Kind of Headache

Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize exactly what is causing a headache. It would be nice to go to the doctor’s office and simply check off nerve pain in head on a list, and have the doctor fix the nerve. But it’s not so simple.

Nerve pain in the head is a well recognized issue. In fact, there are several types of headaches that are specifically related to nerve pain.

Nerve pain in the headThey key word is “neuralgia”. And don’t get that confused with “neurotic” – it’s actually quite the opposite. Neuralgia refers to nerve pain, caused by damage or irritation to the nerve itself.

Neuralgia can occur wherever there are nerves. Typical symptoms may include sensitivity to any pressure (for example, “sensitive skin”), pain with movement, sharp stabbing pain, or pain that follows the path of the nerve. Neuralgia may even affect the muscles, causing weakness or even paralysis.

One thing to be aware of it that many patients have both neuralgia type head pain and another headache disorder. It’s important that both are recognized and treated.

Without going through all the possible diagnoses, here are some ways to recognize if you might have neuralgia head pain:

  • Pain is stabbing or shooting, or like an electric shock
  • Pain follows a certain path, and is almost always in the same place
  • Pain is made worse with touching or moving
  • Pain began at a certain time (may or may not be clearly related to a sickness or trauma/injury)

There are many possible causes in the category of nerve pain in head. It will help your doctor if you keep track of certain things. For example, do you know when the pain started? Where does it hurt (for example, back of the tongue, back of the head, jaw, etc)? What makes it worse/better? Are there other symptoms, such as eye redness, muscle weakness or contraction, sore throat, etc.?

If it seems possible that nerve damage may be involved, your doctor may call for imaging, such as an MRI, to take a closer look.

Treatment can vary drastically depending on the diagnosis (which can include Tolosa-Hunt syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, occipital neuralgia, and many more – read about some examples of nerve pain in head). But getting the correct diagnosis early on can help you find helpful treatment as soon as possible.

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