Ice Pick Headache

Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Ice pick headaches are named so because of the nature of the pain. They are felt as a very sharp and stabbing pain, just like how an ice pick would feel; commonly occurring in the parietal, temporal and orbital region. They come on very abruptly and are very painful; however, they last for some seconds only. This type of headache is not as common as other types of headache.

Ice Pick Headache

The pain can be felt as a single stabbing pain at one place or at multiple sites, i.e. there is a series of stabbing pain felt on different regions of the head. Ice pick headaches catch you unawares, are very severe and intense in nature and they are gone within mere seconds. Some individuals experience ice pick headaches in sporadic clusters. There can be some days, weeks or months and even years between two attacks of ice pick headaches.

Causes For Ice Pick Headache

The exact cause of ice pick headaches is not known. However, there are some predisposing factors to this type of headache, such as individuals who suffer from migraines and cluster headaches are more predisposed to having ice pick headaches at some point in their life.

Symptoms of Ice Pick Headache

Symptoms of Ice Pick Headache

  • Excruciating pain, which is stabbing in nature and lasts for just a few seconds.
  • They are abrupt in onset.
  • Have a piercing quality, akin to an ice pick.
  • Pain can be felt at one site or many sites on the head.
  • Can wake you up from your sleep.
  • Usually, there are no other accompanying symptoms.

Treatment For Ice Pick Headache

Treatment for ice pick headaches is usually not required, as they dissipate in a matter of seconds, before you even reach for your pain killer. However, if you are experiencing these headaches throughout the day or frequently, then you can take some medicines to treat them or can take them as a preventative measure. The following measures can be followed for ice pick headaches:

  • Indomethacin is a NSAIDs which is very popular in resolving these headaches. However, it should be used with caution because of the side effects which every NSAID carries.
  • Other medicines such as antidepressants and antiepileptics can also be tried. Other than relieving the pain, they also help with your sleep.
  • As this headache is more common among migraine sufferers, medications for migraine also help in these headaches.
  • Being relaxed and stress free is very important to rid oneself of any medical condition. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation benefit a lot.
  • Following a healthy diet and exercising daily is a must to get rid of headaches and other ailments.
  • You can keep a headache log for these headaches to know when and how they occur. You should write down at what time do they occur? What were you doing when you had them? What was the duration of the headache? Does anything in particular trigger them off? Some special food item? You can note all these things down and take your journal to your doctor to discuss and see if there is any pattern and what treatment is best for you.
  • Lastly, ice pick headaches usually do not indicate a serious problem; however, it is better to consult your doctor and seek treatment it they occur frequently.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 29, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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