Ice Pick Headaches

Ice Pick Headaches: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Have you experienced ice pick headaches? It feels like someone is stabbing your head with an ice pick. The problem also referred to as stabbing headaches can cause immense distress to you. It affects your everyday function as the agony can pull you back from performing your tasks. In most cases, people can experience brief stabs of pain at the front side of their head. You can experience the excruciating pain for a few seconds to a few minutes.

The duration of the headache differs from person to person. The stabbing pain can move from one area to another on the opposite or the same side of the head. The problems or over-activity in the pain-sensitive structures in your head can lead to stabbing headaches. You can suffer from the problem due to underlying health complication or occur due to any identifiable cause. So, you need to gather more information about the problem

What Do You Mean By Ice Pick Headaches?

Headaches come in different forms. But, the intense pain you feel can make you uneasy. The term icepick refers to a pointed tool with a sharp end. It is helpful in breaking large blocks of ice. Using the sharp tool you can stab the large blocks of ice into smaller pieces. It is a deadly weapon that can cause harm to the human body. You can associate the sharp pain caused by the tool to the headache. Therefore, it is known as ice pick headaches. The pain mainly occurs around your eyes or temple region. People suffering from other forms of headache like cluster headaches or migraines can experience it. The headaches are more common in people between the ages of 45-50 years.

Ice pick headaches

You can experience sudden, but severe headaches that feel painful. People who experience it describe it as feeling series of stabs or stabbing blows on the head using an ice pick. You have no warning of the headache. Therefore, it feels debilitating and excruciating. But, the headaches last only for a few seconds or utmost a minute. The extreme triggered by the headache can affect your mental health. The intense pain can make the sufferers think about the possibility of death or fatal self-harm. The incessant stabbing can affect your personal and personal life in an adverse manner. The stabbing pain can occur at any time in a day. So, you can experience it during walking or sleeping hours. It can also occur multiple times in a day. The other names used to refer to the headache are:

  • Needle-in-the-eye syndrome
  • Jabs and Jolts
  • Stabbing Headaches
  • Idiopathic stabbing headache
  • Opthalmodynia Periodica
  • Short-lived head pain syndrome

Symptoms Of Ice Pick Headaches

When you suffer from an ice pick headaches, you can experience several symptoms. The common signs that people can suffer are:

  • Sudden pain that feels like stabbing the head, which can last from five to ten seconds
  • Moderate-severe to severe pain on one side of the head
  • The stabbing sensation can occur up to fifty times a day
  • You feel the stabbing sensation once or many times over a period of time (several hours)
  • Stabbing pain occurs without any prior warning
  • You can feel the stabbing pain on the front, top, or sides of your head
  • The stabs can occur in multiple areas of your head (one stabbing sensation at a time)

Sometimes, you can confuse ice pick headaches with other types of headaches like cluster/migraine headaches. But, unlike the other headaches, you will never experience the autonomic signs like:

Difference Between Ice Pick Heads And Migraines

Difference Between Ice Pick Heads And Migraines

You can confuse ice pick headaches with migraines. It is due to the fact that both affects one side of the head. But, migraines are different as you can experience intense and debilitating pain with it. It lasts longer and lingers for hours or even days. It also triggers other symptoms in your body that stabbing headaches may not cause. So, the additional symptoms associated with migraines are:

  • Blind spots
  • Facial tingling
  • Flashes of light
  • Nausea
  • Heightened sensitivity to sound
  • Vomiting

When you suffer such symptoms along with the pain, it means you have a migraine. So, you need to get treatment accordingly.

Differentiating Ice Pick Headaches And Cluster Headaches

Differentiating Ice Pick Headaches And Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches as the name suggest occurs in clusters. It occurs over an extended period of time. So, you can suffer from the problem from weeks to months. The headaches often occur for a short duration of time, but you can feel the extreme pain triggered by it. It mainly affects one side of your head or the region around one eye. You can feel the heading during your sleep too. It often resembles the ice pick headaches due to its sudden occurrence. The headache strikes suddenly, but unlike stabbing headaches, you can see certain signs before experiencing the pain in your head. It is often preceded by migraine headaches or signs of migraine headache.

Tension Headaches Vs Ice Pick Headaches

When you are stressed due to personal and professional reasons, then you can feel a headache. Tension headaches can cause tightness or dull pain. You can experience pressure at the back of your head or around the forehead. Some people can feel the pain even in your neck. Ice pick headaches differ from tension headache as it feels like a clamp squeezing your skull. Tension headaches are mostly suffered by adults. The pain you suffer ranges from mild to moderate. The headache affects the entire head, which feels like surrounded by vice.

Causes Of Ice Pick Headaches

The exact underlying cause of ice pick headaches remains unclear. But, the short-term disruptions within the central pain control mechanisms can lead to fleeting pain. It is a rare type of headache that affects 2% to 35% overall population around the world. It can occur in the adult when they age above 30 years old. The headache can occur in two forms. So, the classification of stabbing pain headaches are:

Primary Headaches

The primary headaches occur without any apparent reason. So, without any underlying health condition, you can suffer from the stabbing pain.

Secondary Headaches

Certain health condition can trigger ice pick headaches. Due to the underlying health issue, your brain can produce abnormal brain wave signals. The random signals produced can trigger stabbing headaches. Therefore, the underlying health condition triggering the stabbing headaches are:


You must have heard about migraines, the recurrent headaches, which affects one side of the head. The moderate to severe headaches can affect one half of your head. The pulsating pain can last from 2 to 72 hours. People who have migraines are more prone to stabbing headaches compared to others. It also affects the same side that migraines occur. So, if you have migraines then you can experience the stabbing pain at some point in your life.

Cluster Headaches

Though the actual problem leading to the headaches remain unsolved, the facial nerve complications can trigger the stabbing pain. Cluster headache can cause intense pain in the region surrounding your eyes. The headache can cause great distress. So, when people suffer from the attack, they tend to pace due to its severity. It is more severe than migraines. Many people who experience cluster headache can feel the stabbing pain on one side of the head after the cluster headache cycle.

Temporal Arteritis

It is a condition that can trigger stabbing pain on one side of the head. The condition can affect your arteries that supply blood from your heart to the brain. A temporal arteritis is a form of inflammation of your blood vessels (vasculitis). The problem can cause inflammation of the blood vessels that supply blood to your scalp. So, the constriction due to the inflammation can trigger the stabbing pain. Temporal arteritis is a serious medical condition, which requires immediate treatment. Ignoring it can lead to serious complications like brain aneurysm, stroke or even death.

Intracerebral Meningioma

Intracerebral meningioma refers to the tumor, which grows at a slow rate. It mostly occurs on the spinal cord as well as your brain’s surface. The meningioma occurs in meninges (it is the thin membrane covering as well as protecting spinal cord and brain). The gradual growth of the tumor can cause nerve compression along with the blood vessels. So, you can experience headaches due to it. In most cases, you may not feel the problem. It is mostly diagnosed when you suffer from symptoms completely unrelated to the tumor. You need quick medical help to overcome the problem. The treatment options include observation, radiation therapy, and surgery.

Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune disorder refers to the immune system’s abnormal response, which can cause issues in your body. The problem can cause complications to the body’s normal parts. Problems like lupus, multiple sclerosis, and vasculitis can trigger stabbing pain. Therefore, it can lead to ice pick headaches.

Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy

It is the disease that can cause facial paralysis. The problem occurs due to the trauma or damage to the facial nerve. The trauma to the seventh cranial nerve can lead to Bell’s palsy. Therefore, the trauma to the facial nerve can trigger headaches. The stabbing pain can result in great agony.



It is the viral infection triggered by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes rashes on your body. The rashes can affect your face or neck. In such cases, the infection can affect your nerves. Therefore, the nerve damage to the neck and head can trigger ice pick headaches.

People who suffer stabbing headaches due to underlying health condition need to see the doctor immediately. You need to talk to your doctor about the signs and get the necessary treatment options to manage the problem well.

Triggers Of Ice Pick Headaches

The headaches can trouble you at any time without any known triggers. If you suffer from cluster headaches and stabbing headaches, then it becomes difficult to identify the triggers resulting in the problem. Others who suffer from issues like migraine can also get ice pick headaches. In such people, some specific triggers can lead to the problem. Therefore, you have more success determining the trigger leading to the pain. It can include the following:

  • Excess Stress
  • Disruptions in your sleep pattern
  • Consumption of alcohol (Red wine in particular)
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Consuming food additives

You need to observe the pattern that leads to stabbing pain. Note it down to understand what causes agonizing pain. It will help you prevent or avoid the headaches to an extent.

Diagnosis Of Ice Pick Headaches

When you suffer from ice pick headaches, you can feel immense distress. You will find it difficult to complete your everyday tasks and functions. Therefore, you can seek medical help to know the underlying reason for your headache. Since headaches are of diverse types, your doctor needs to diagnose the problem properly to provide relief. When you see the doctor, you have to undergo the following diagnosis methods:

Physical Assessment

When you see your doctor, it is important to tell about your medical history. You must also inform the medical professional about the signs you experience. The doctor eliminates the possibility of other issues with similar symptoms. Knowing about the previous disorders can help your doctor make a proper diagnosis. The visual and physical inspection can provide more light on the exact cause and type of headache.

Sophisticated Imaging Techniques

Your doctor can suggest sophisticated imaging tests like MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging can provide comprehensive information about your brain structure and possible issues with it. Sensitive imaging tests can provide intricate information within your brain. So, your doctor can determine the exact reason for your stabbing pain.

Ice pick headaches are diagnosed clinically by your doctor. In most cases, imaging techniques are not required to come to the proper diagnosis. Based on the observation, your doctor can determine the exact reason for your agony.

Treatment Options For Ice Pick Headaches

Unlike other types of headaches, you feel the stabbing pain only for a few seconds or minutes. Therefore, you never get the window of opportunity to take painkillers to relieve the agony. You only experience a brief duration of pain. So, you may not feel the need to take medication to manage the symptoms. But, some people are prone to frequent attacks. In such cases, your doctor can suggest taking preventive medication to reduce the severity of the problem. Depending on the severity of the pain, duration of pain, and the frequency of headache occurrence, your doctor can suggest the best treatment plan for you.


Your doctor can offer pain relief medication to relieve the agony associated with it. In most cases, the medication blocks the inflammation and reduce the pain. The following medication is usually preferred for dealing with stabbing pain:


It is the prescription-only medication that can relieve inflammation of the nerve and reduce pain successfully. It is the oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) that treats a different form of headaches. You can use the medication to relieve extreme pain due to stabbing headaches.


The chemical name of Melatonin is N-acetyl-5 methoxy tryptamine, which can reduce headaches. The medication is nothing but a hormone that can reduce insomnia as well as stabbing headache. You can get the prescription-only medication only after consulting the doctor.


The anticonvulsant medication is available only with a prescription. It can help relieve the nerve pain and subsequent headache. So, your doctor can prescribe it after taking looking into your signs and symptoms.

Try To Identify The Triggers

You can keep a diary, which contains the details about your daily activities. You have to jot down your food intake, your emotions, and stabbing headache. It helps you identify the trigger leading to the ice pick headaches. If you do not wish to write in a diary, you can use specialized apps. The apps can help you keep track of your day-to-day life. So, keeping a journal can help you avoid the trigger and prevent stabbing pain.

Alternative Therapy

Alternative Therapy

Alternative forms of treatment like acupuncture can provide you relief from different headaches. You can also get relief from the stabbing pain with the Chinese form of treatment. It involves inserting thin needles at specific points in your body to alleviate the pain.

Remember, ice pick headaches alone does not cause any serious health complication. You never require medical intervention when it only occurs at times or does not interfere with your day-to-day life. So, you need to seek medical help only when the pain becomes frequent or severe. You need to prevent it from affecting your life as it occurs suddenly. It can affect people who drive a vehicle, operate a piece of machinery or engage in other activities. The sudden stab of pain can lead to serious complications. Therefore, you need to prevent it from affecting your life.


Ice pick headaches have no specific reasons or have no specific trigger. It can affect your quality of life. Therefore, you need to see a doctor to rule out serious problems. A specialist can assess the symptoms and come to a conclusive diagnosis. It will aid in developing a treatment plan that will manage the condition better. Long-term management can help you reduce the severity of attacks or prevent it completely in your life. So, you can control the severity of the attacks. You can handle the problem in such a way that it does not affect your regular life.

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