Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
In this Article
- Headache facts
- What is a headache?
- How are headaches classified?
- What are primary headaches?
- What are secondary headaches?
- What are cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches?
- What causes tension headaches?
- What are the symptoms of tension headaches?
- How are tension headaches diagnosed?
- How are tension headaches treated?
- What causes cluster headaches?
- What are the symptoms of cluster headaches?
- How are cluster headaches diagnosed?
- How are cluster headaches treated?
- Can cluster headaches be prevented?
- What diseases cause secondary headaches?
- How are secondary headaches diagnosed?
- What are the exams and tests for secondary headaches?
- When should I seek medical care for a headache?
- Headache & Migraine Triggers - Slideshow
- A Visual Guide to Migraine Headaches - Slideshow
- Take the Headaches Quiz!
- Headaches FAQs
- Find a local Neurologist in your town
What are secondary headaches?
Secondary headaches are those that are due to an underlying structural problem in the head or neck. This is a very broad group of medical conditions ranging from dental pain from infected teeth to pain from an infected sinus, to life-threatening conditions like bleeding in the brain or infections like encephalitis or meningitis.
Traumatic headaches fall into this category including post-concussion headaches.
This group of headaches also includes those headaches associated with substance abuse and excess use of medications used to treat headaches (rebound headaches).
What are cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches?
Neuralgia means nerve pain (neur= nerve + algia=pain). Cranial neuralgia describes inflammation of one of the 12 nerves that supply the motor and sensation function of the head and neck. Perhaps the most commonly recognized example is trigeminal neuralgia, which affects cranial nerve V (the trigeminal nerve) and can cause intense facial pain.
What causes tension headaches?
While tension headaches are the most frequently occurring type of headache, their cause is not known. The World Health Organization estimates that in the developed world, 80% of women and 67% of men will experience this type of headache. The most likely cause is contraction of the muscles that cover the skull. When the muscles covering the skull are stressed, they may become inflamed, go into spasm, and cause pain. Common sites include the base of the skull where the trapezius muscles of the neck insert, the temples where muscles that move the jaw are located, and the forehead.
There is little research to confirm the exact cause of tension headaches. Tension headaches occur because of physical or emotional stress placed on the body. For example, these stressors can cause the muscles surrounding the skull to clench the teeth and go into spasm. Physical stressors include difficult and prolonged manual labor, or sitting at a desk or computer for long periods of time concentrating. Emotional stress also may cause tension headaches by causing the muscles surrounding the skull to contract.
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