Headaches

Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles

Neurology Specialists located in Santa Monica, CA

Some types of headaches are short-lived and can be relieved with over-the-counter medications, but severe headaches and migraine disorders are different as they can cause days or even weeks of ongoing severe pain. Edward J. O’Connor, MD, FAAN, and Russ Shimizu, MD, at Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles can help migraine sufferers with medications and interventional treatments that effectively relieve their pain. To get help with your migraines, call the office in Santa Monica, California, or book an appointment online today.

Headaches Q & A

What are the different types of headaches?

All headaches are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary headaches are directly caused by a problem in your head and neck, such as nerve sensitivity or tense muscles. A secondary headache is one that’s caused by an underlying health problem, like a concussion.

The most common primary headaches include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Migraine headaches

Tension headaches generally cause mild to moderate pain that responds well to over-the-counter medications. Cluster headaches cause agonizing pain in or around one eye. They’re “cluster” headaches because you’ll have daily headaches for about 6-12 weeks, then they’ll go away for a period of time.

The third type, migraine headaches, are now recognized as a more complex problem called migraine disorders.

What are migraine disorders?

Migraine research is rapidly advancing, and as experts learn more their studies show that migraines encompass more than the well-known headache symptoms.

People with migraine disorders also experience unexpected, body-wide symptoms such as:

  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Ear pressure
  • Facial pressure and pain
  • Brain fog or difficulty thinking of words
  • Ear and sinus pressure
  • Difficulty sleeping  
  • Anxiety and mood disorders

In other words, migraines are a spectrum of problems that are better represented by the term migraine disorders.

What causes migraine disorders?

Migraines are primarily a neurological problem that occurs when the trigeminal nerve overreacts to stimuli, or triggers. The trigeminal nerve connects with your facial skin, mucous membranes, muscles, teeth, and jaw.

When the nerve overacts to a trigger, it sends signals to your brain, boosting brain activity and releasing biochemicals. As a result, a migraine develops, along with other symptoms such as nausea.

Everyone has their own triggers, but some of the most common include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Caffeine
  • Bright lights
  • Eating certain foods
  • Not eating
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration

When you meet with the doctors at Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles, one of the first steps in your treatment is to identify your triggers and create a plan to avoid them as much as possible.

What symptoms will I develop during a migraine?

Migraines last from 4-72 hours when they’re not treated. During a migraine attack, you’ll experience one or more of the following:

  • Intense pain, usually near your temple
  • Pain that worsens when you move
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds, smell, or touch
  • Nausea and vomiting

Some patients experience mood changes and food cravings in the days before a migraine, while others develop an aura in the hour before the migraine begins. Auras most often cause changes in vision, such as seeing wavy lines or flashes of light.

How are migraines treated?

A variety of medications are available to relieve migraine pain and reduce their severity, length, or frequency. As interventional pain specialists, the doctors at Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles offer treatments that target the source of your pain, such as:

  • Peripheral nerve blocks
  • Trigger point injections
  • Xeomin® injections

You should see the team at Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles for headaches, especially if you have two or more headaches a week, your headache begins after a head injury, or you suffer from severe headaches or migraines.

To schedule an appointment today, call the office or use the online booking feature.