Craniofacial Pain is the term most often associated with chronic pain in the face, neck or head.
The pain may include migraine headaches, earaches, facial muscle stiffness and fatigue, and neck and upper back stiffness. Causes of these sorts of pain vary greatly, from teeth clenching to bite problems and anxiety.
What all forms of craniofacial pain have in common, however, is the chronic debilitating effect they can have on a person.
Some Sources of Craniofacial and Headache Pain
This is a neurological condition where the occipital nerves, running from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp are inflamed or injured. Due to similar symptoms, the condition can be confused with migraines or other headaches. The pain from Occipital Neuralgia is generally a sharp pain in the back of the head or neck, but may also be accompanied by sensitivity to light, pain behind the eye, tender scalp and pain when moving the head.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a condition where there is chronic pain in the Trigeminal Nerve which carries sensation from the face to the brain. When suffering from this condition, even normal activities such as brushing your teeth or putting on make-up may cause excruciating pain. These bouts of pain may start as very short, but they can begin to last longer as the condition continues.
While Neuralgia’s are considered craniofacial (happening outside the skull), headaches take place within the skull. Though there are over 150 categories of headaches, the most common are migraines, tension and cluster headaches.
Tension headaches are the most common form of chronic headache. These are muscle contraction headaches which cause mild to moderate pain and will come and go over time.
Migraine headaches are a little more mysterious, as no one knows the real source. Though no one knows the cause of migraines, it is known that they are linked to genetics. Migraine pain is frequently described as moderate to severe, with pounding, throbbing pain. Along with sensitivity to light, noise and odors, migraines may be accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.
Cluster headaches are the least common, but most severe form of headaches. These headaches bring severe pain often accompanied by burning or piercing sensations which throb or remain constant. Cluster headache pain is often felt behind one eye, or in the area of the eye. They are called cluster headaches because they appear several times a day during a cluster period. They may also lay dormant for long periods of time, sometimes years, before recurring.
Cervicogenic headaches are secondary headaches, meaning are caused by another illness or physical ailment. Though most headaches do not start in the neck, Cervicogenic headaches do. From the neck, this headache will spread up into the head, branching out. This headache is most often associated with cervical conditions such as facet syndrome—or pain between the joints in your spine.
Treatment for Craniofacial Pain
To treat these conditions, it is very important for the doctor to understand the onset of your symptoms. Most headaches are related to the nerves of the face, head and neck, and can be managed with oral or injected medications. These medications will block the pain and inflammation, greatly reducing your symptoms. In some instances, lifestyle changes may be recommended by your doctor. In the case of chronic pain, constant management may be necessary in order to minimize pain and ensure a normal life.