Headaches are extremely common. Almost everyone has experienced a severe headache at least once in their lifetime. In most cases, headaches are minor nuisances that resolve within a short time.
However, headaches can on rare occasions be the warning sign of a potentially serious disorder that requires immediate medical attention. Potentially serious disorders that can produce headache pain include brain tumors, stroke (particularly stroke related to brain hemorrhage or an arterial tear in the neck) and inflammation of the temporal arteries. There are often subtle signs that accompany headaches associated with these conditions that can help people recognize that something more serious is causing their pain.
This May, during Stroke Awareness Month, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) suggests people be aware of the signs that a headache is more than just a headache. If you experience any of the following symptoms with your headache, seek immediate medical attention:
- The sudden onset of severe headache that is more intense than any headache you have ever had in the past.
- Headache that is accompanied by blurred vision, double vision, trouble swallowing or speaking, or severe dizziness.
- Headache that is accompanied by numbness, tingling, weakness or clumsiness in the arms or legs.
- Headache that is worsened with lying down.
- In older adults, headache in the temple area that is accompanied by a feeling of pulsations in that area.
- Headache that is accompanied by confusion, disorientation or loss of consciousness.
- Headache that is accompanied by fever.
- Headache that is accompanied by a severe stiff neck.
- Headache that is accompanied by persistent or unexplained vomiting.
- Severe headache in someone over age 50 who does not normally suffer from headaches.
Many people find relief from their headache pain through natural, chiropractic care. But in cases where a more serious condition is the root of the pain, it’s vital to identify the warning signs early and to call 911 or seek immediate medical attention in the emergency room of your local hospital.
Content credit: Donald Murphy, DC
Reviewed by the ACA Editorial Advisory Board. This information is for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for treatment or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have specific questions, contact your doctor of chiropractic. To find an ACA chiropractor near you, click here.