Understanding Complex Headaches and Facial Pain Disorders

Since we use a generic term like “headache” to describe head pain symptoms, it’s easy to assume headaches all the same. However, there are numerous types of headache disorders — more than 150 — and they each cause their own symptoms, including facial pain. 

All of these differences are also why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for headaches. Instead, it’s crucial to determine what’s to blame for your symptoms so you can find a therapy that will provide relief.

At Metro Pain and Vein Centers, our team diagnoses and treats complex headache and facial pain disorders. They shared these insights into headaches and what could be causing your facial pain symptoms.

Understanding headaches

When it comes to diagnosing headaches, the first step is determining if you have a primary or secondary headache. 

Primary headaches

As you might expect, primary headaches start on their own and without an apparent cause. These headaches often involve brain chemicals and changes in nerve cell activity, which cause head pain. 

A well-known type of primary headache is a migraine.

Secondary headaches

These headaches occur because of something else. For example, you could have sinus issues, high blood pressure, or head trauma that causes the pain-sensitive nerve endings in your head to get aggravated or pushed out of position. 

Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes headaches and facial pain.

Headaches and pain

Your brain tissue itself can’t feel pain because it doesn’t have any pain-sensitive nerves. Instead, the sensations you feel reach the brain through the trigeminal nerve, one of your cranial nerves that starts at the base of your brain.

The trigeminal nerve contains three branches to transmit sensation to the brain from the:

When pain-sensitive nerve endings detect specific headache triggers, they start sending messages to the trigeminal nerve, which delivers them to your thalamus. Think of your thalamus as your brain’s switchboard. It receives pain sensations from all over your body and routes them to the parts of your brain that should respond.

Depending on where the thalamus sends the messages, you can experience a variety of symptoms, like nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty concentrating.

Why your face hurts

The trigeminal nerve can do far more than communicate headache symptoms. 

If you have trigeminal neuralgia, even the lightest touch to your face can trigger excruciating pain. Unlike a primary headache, this condition occurs because of pressure on the trigeminal nerve, which causes it to malfunction. 

In most cases, this type of secondary headache condition develops because of a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve. Several factors can cause this problem, including aging, multiple sclerosis, brain lesions, or other health conditions that put pressure on the nerve.

Fortunately, we offer treatments that can help manage complex headaches and facial pain disorders. 

Don’t wait to find relief for your symptoms. Contact one of our Metro Pain and Vein Centers offices in New Jersey or New York by booking a visit online or calling today.

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