The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Headaches

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Headaches

Pain management doctors treat all sorts of patients suffering from a wide variety of chronic pain conditions. Believe it or not, chronic headache pain is not all that unusual. Headaches are something we see quite frequently here in our Texas pain management clinic.

The interesting thing about headaches is that so many things can cause them. Head pain can be a symptom of something else or a condition unto itself. To help doctors better diagnose the cause, headaches have been divided into two classifications known as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’.

Do you suffer from regular or chronic headaches? If so, pain management doctors can help. We invite you to contact our clinic and set up an appointment. In the meantime, you might be interested to know the difference between primary and secondary headaches.

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches are headaches that make up the totality of your condition. In other words, they are not a symptom of another problem. Most of your run-of-the-mill headaches fall under this category. We currently recognize three types:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headaches.

Primary headaches tend to be episodic in nature. In other words, they come and go. You might experience one every few days or weeks. It generally does not last more than an hour or two. Note though that some primary headaches can be chronic. If you are suffering from chronic headache, your doctor should be able to tell you whether your condition is primary or secondary.

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches occur in conjunction with some other condition. As such, these headaches are considered symptoms of another problem. Medical science divides secondary headaches into six distinct categories:

  • Sinus headaches
  • Medication headaches
  • Illness-related headaches
  • Post-traumatic headaches
  • Cervicogenic headaches
  • Spinal headaches.

Most secondary headaches cause specific types of pain and are felt in certain regions of the head. A patient’s description of pain type and location often gives doctors clues as to what is going on. Here at Lone Star we specialize in cervicogenic and spinal headaches.

Conditions We Treat

We invite you to contact us if you are suffering from chronic headaches that you believe might be secondary. Our pain specialists will be happy to consult with you. In terms of spinal and cervicogenic headaches, there are several conditions we can treat:

Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy is a condition in which a nerve root in the area of the cervical vertebrae is compressed. The compression can cause pain and the loss of feeling along the entire nerve pathway. If it is severe enough, the compression can actually damage the nerve.

A 2007 study out of Sweden demonstrates that cervical radiculopathy can cause headaches. Headache pain tends to be limited to the same side as the nerve itself and radiates up from the base of the neck.

Cervical Facet Joint Syndrome

Although the pain associated with cervical facet joint syndrome normally presents in the lower back and below, it is not abnormal for patients to present with pain in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Some people do experience chronic headaches as a result of this condition.

Spinal Infections

Finally, any portion of the spine can become infected if exposed to bacteria, fungus, and other pathogens. A spinal infection near the upper portion of the spine can cause headache pain. These types of headaches are not as common, but they do occur.

If you suffer from frequent or chronic headaches, please visit us at our Weatherford, Texas clinic or see your primary care physician. There is no need to continue living with the pain as headaches can be treated.

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