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Can Anything Stop My Horrible Headaches?

Vice-like pressure, unrelenting pounding, sharp stabs, pain associated with neck pain, or dull aches — however, you describe your head pain, you’ve likely tried everything you can think of to stop it. But if over-the-counter pain medications, at-home remedies, and lifestyle changes haven’t been able to quell your chronic headaches, you may need next-level treatment.

Dr. Jay M. Shah at SamWell Institute for Pain Management offers expert diagnosis and treatment of headache pain to patients throughout Colonia and Livingston, New Jersey. If your head pain has lingered too long, and nothing seems to help, you can benefit from Dr. Shah’s years of experience and exceptional skill. Here are some of the treatments he uses to relieve severe and ongoing headache pain.

A word about headaches

Headaches can be either primary, where the headache is the medical condition, or secondary, where the headache is a symptom of another condition. Headaches can stem from problems with your sinuses, nerves, or, the joints and structure in your neck or cervical spine, or spinal cord; they can come in waves, clusters or sudden attacks; and they can even be the result of taking too much headache medication.

Understanding the exact underlying cause for your head pain is the first step in relieving it for good. Dr. Shah talks with you at length about your headache pain and may have you keep a diary of the frequency as well as the context of your headaches — foods, drinks, stress level, environment, hormone shifts, general health, etc. — as part of his diagnostic procedure. Once he identifies the root of your head pain, he can recommend the right treatment plan, which may include the following.

Medication

For many types of headaches, OTC pain relievers can do wonders, but as we mentioned, there comes a point when the cure becomes the cause This is called a rebound headache, and it occurs when you take pain medication several times a week. But your headache comes back, so you take even more medication, and the drug itself ends up aggravating the pain.

If Dr. Shah determines that drugs can improve your headaches, he carefully monitors your medications to avoid rebound pain. He may prescribe preventive (taken to avoid the onset of headaches), abortive (to stop a headache, typically migraines, before they escalate), or symptomatic (to alleviate the effects of your headaches) medication. Of course, ideally, he can solve the root problem and eliminate the need for medication altogether, which is where the following treatments come in.

Nerve blocks

Sometimes, headaches stem from the nerve that runs across the back and top of your head. When this occurs, Dr. Shah may perform an occipital nerve block under direct imagine guidance for safe and effective results. Here, he numbs an area at the back of your head and neck region and injects a pain-reliever that bathes your nerves in that area with medication that blocks the pain signals. 

Not only does your pain subside, but it also gives Dr. Shah valuable information about the source of your headaches. Cluster headaches, migraines, and occipital neuralgia headaches can all potentially benefit from a nerve block.

Radiofrequency ablation

If a nerve block successfully improves your symptoms, Dr. Shah can take the next step and permanently block the pain with radiofrequency ablation, also called rhizotomy. Like a nerve block, a rhizotomy effectively stops pain signals, but it does so differently: nerve blocks temporarily stop pain messages with medication, and a rhizotomy uses heat energy to turn off pain signals from the nerve causing the pain, thus ending it for good.

There is a chance that your nerve will grow back, in which case you may need another treatment in 9 months to 2 years.

Spinal cord stimulation

When other treatments fail to relieve your headache pain, Dr. Shah may recommend spinal cord stimulation (SCS). This technique is highly successful for many types of untreatable pain and may be able to stop your headaches as well.

Dr. Shah places small electrodes (wires) over the affected nerves, and attaches those wires to an external device that sends a low-voltage electrical current to your nerves and blocks your pain. If this treatment successfully improves your symptoms during the trial phase, Dr. Shah implants the device permanently to give you years of headache-free life. SCS may be able to help if you have cluster headaches, migraines, or occipital nerve headaches. 

There’s no need to live with debilitating head pain. If you’ve tried to stop your headaches on your own and can’t get relief, come see Dr. Shah. Call us at either of our two locations in Colonia or Livingston, New Jersey, or book a consultation online today.

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