Nobody wants to feel like an ice pick is being stuck in their head.
Unfortunately, about 2% of the population goes through this pain. (1)
Luckily they usually only last a few seconds to a few minutes max.
I’ve been there.
When I was super high in inflammation and on the trigger mode road to daily migraines I’d also get these flashes of pain.
In this article, I’m going to talk about what Ice pick headaches are, what the most common drugs used are and some special tips to consider when you find yourself experiencing them.
What is an Ice Pick Headache?
Ice pick headaches are actually just a name used to describe short flashes of “stabbing like” head pain that usually occurs in the front or temple areas of the head.
This pain usually comes out of nowhere and disappears out of nowhere as well.
They fall under a category called primary stabbing headaches which can have a massively spread out total disease duration from under 2 weeks to over 52, graphed below.
The problem is they pack a punch. You can easily go from a pain level of 2 to a pain level of 9 in a few seconds. This is enough to make anyone stop and clench for dear life.
It’s recognized as an idiopathic headache which means there is no known cause.
Let’s take what is known about what doctors use to treat it and point you in the right direction.
Here is a more detailed video about a patients experience with ice pick headaches and how NUCCA chiropractic care is an amazing therapy that worked for him:
What are the most common medications used to treat ice pick headaches?
These types of headaches are known as “indomethacin responsive headaches” which means they respond to the drug indomethacin.
Unfortunately, about 35% of patients fail to respond significantly enough to that treatment method. (2)
Other common medications that get used include:
– Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors
What causes ice pick headaches?
Just like most of the other headache disorders, everyone throws in the towel.
And it’s true, we know very little about our own brains and bodies.
The American migraine foundation says:
“The cause of ice pick headache is unknown but it is believed to result from transient breakdowns in the brain’s central pain control mechanisms.”(3)
Because ice pick headaches are thought of as a primary headache, they are often labelled as not usually having an underlying cause. Simply a “malfunction” in the body.
The interesting thing to note here is that if you suffer from other headache disorders like migraines, you are more likely to experience ice pick headaches.
What do we do?
Let’s look at the information and piece it together with what we know about other headache disorders.
It may be quite often that inflammation plays a role in developing issues like headaches and migraines.
After all, what is one of the first things you reach for when you get a headache?
An aspirin or an advil.
These are nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs…
Then there are the prescription medications…
Indomethacin and cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors are both anti inflammatory drugs.
Then we run into one of the more commonly used supplements that have been found to be effective and we will talk more about in the tips…
Melatonin is thought of as the sleep hormone. It helps us sleep and run all our important sleep repair. Not only that but it’s also an incredibly strong antioxidant.
Sleep is also the master healer in our bodies which without we would break down and die.
The majority of the repair and cooling of the inflammation that goes on in our bodies happens during sleep.
Our body temperature drops and our brain shrinks to squeeze out all the built up waste from the days thinking.
Without sleep, headaches are unavoidable and there’s a reason why.
Bringing it all together
What are the pieces of the puzzle?
Some of the most common medications for ice pick are anti inflammatory
The american migraine foundation says “The cause of ice pick headache is unknown but it is believed to result from transient breakdowns in the brain’s central pain control mechanisms.”(3)
Headache and migraine disorders are commonly connected by oxidation and inflammation
One of the most common supplemental treatments is melatonin which is a strong antioxidant
When we start to look at it like this everything becomes more clear.
Break down in the brain doesn’t happen for no reason. For a tissue to stop working and degrade, unless there is an acute physical injury, it goes through a process of chronic inflammation or “fire” first.
If we want to be healthy and avoid inflammation and oxidation that can wreak havoc on our bodies we need to follow simple steps that keep our body cleaning out waste and delivering nutrients.
Now let’s talk about the 5 special tips I have for you:
Of course first and foremost is a simple hormone that you can buy at your health food store.
But taking melatonin sublingually(under the tongue) is just scratching the surface of what’s going on here.
If melatonin is producing relief that means our body may well be deficient in it.
How does our body become deficient in a hormone that we absolutely need for sleep, repair and keeping oxidation and inflammation at bay?
Here are a few reasons that should be corrected before you become dependent on melatonin from outside of your body:
– You aren’t actually getting into deep sleep
– Circadian rhythms are out of whack and adrenal hormones are upside down
– Blood sugar is dropping and spiking at night
– You are deficient in proteins which give you the precursors to melatonin like tryptophan
– Excess fluoride in the water supply or diet lowering melatonin(4)
– Too much blue light from screens before bed
– Stress is keeping you out of relaxation and being able to wind down
2. Hot/Cold Technique
If an ice pick style headache is lasting longer than a few seconds you can quickly go for exposure to hot/cold.
The simplest way is warming your hands but this may not be enough.
Many headache sufferers use hot or cold on their head, neck, shoulders, hands, and feet.
One of the most common methods is to get your hands really warm and put your feet into cold or ice cold water.
Showering with cold is a great way to give your body the hunters reflex and change its blood flow pattern to take any heat and inflammation off the head.
3. Some Quick Minerals
Another simple trick that has worked quite well is a quick dose of minerals.
Taking a small cup of water, juicing a lemon or lime into it and giving it a good sprinkle of sea salt(Not table salt).
This mix provides you with a massive amount of minerals, enzymes, cofactors, and important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamins like vitamin C.
Juice it, stir and down.
This has been reported to work for other headaches as well and the minerals provided by the sea salt have been well studied for relief with various headache disorders.
4. The Ultimate Herb For Inflammation
There is an amazing herb out there, used all the time and for thousands of years before any of the anti inflammatory drugs existed.
This herb has an amazing safety profile but as always, make sure to check with your doctor before making any changes.
The neat thing about this herb is that its actually been studied and found more effective for inflammation than many of the drugs on the market.
Taking a thumb sized piece of turmeric root and blending, squeezing or crushing it for fast absorption is an easy way to deal with inflammation daily.
You can also get it in a powder and in a liquid in some places for easy use.
Pro tip: If using fresh turmeric, break it down, mix it with fresh ground black pepper and some healthy fats like coconut oil and let it simmer in a pot for a few minutes.
The piperine in the black pepper extends the effects of turmeric by 300% and the fat + cooking helps to activate them and make them available by the body.
See our post on turmeric for migraines for more information on how to use it.
5. Essential Oils
Essential oils are amazing but should be used with care.
They have anti inflammatory benefits and can be used very quickly once you’re prepared.
There are a few that are all stars in the head pain game.
Peppermint and any kind of menthol have been clinically studied to be very effective.
There is also a blend called “M grain” by Young Living that many report works well.
It contains a blend of:
How it’s often used:
– Careful with the pure oils as they are very strong and can burn the eyes
– Apply a drop or 2 to the area with pain such as temples or forehead and massage in
– Put a few drops on hands, rub in and inhale
– Breathe deeply through the diaphragm into the belly and relax
– Add to bath or diffuser
When an ice pick headache hits, you want to be prepared.
If you’re lucky it will only be a few seconds, but if not, focus on bringing down inflammation.
Experiencing them regularly means you should start looking deeper at what is going on and creating stress in your body because stress leads to inflammation.
Finding the root causes of stress, supporting the body in how it functions and giving it extra boosts and support so that it can heal itself and return to normal functioning is what we work towards in the coaching I do with migraineurs here.
Your brain is constantly building new brain cells and replacing old ones, make the new ones stronger.
If you want to learn more about migraines and headaches than you’ve ever known because you want to get better, join the community here.
Let me know what works for you when you experience sudden head pains in the comments below and make sure to share this post because it helps others find new strategies.