What To Know About Ice Pick Headaches

Clinically referred to as a primary stabbing headache, a short-lived stabbing pain that strikes behind the eye or in the head is often more casually referred to as an ice pick headache (via Cleveland Clinic). "I would say more often than not, people come across the term 'ice pick' accidentally," says the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Juliana VanderPluym via the American Migraine Foundation. "They might not have gone and searched 'Dr. Google' to find out what they have, but just because of what the headache feels like, they end up accidentally diagnosing it themselves."

Also termed needle-in-the-eye syndrome or jabs-and-jolts syndrome, ice pick headaches are estimated to affect only about 2% of people around the globe, although some research suggests this number may be higher (per Cleveland Clinic). While the exact cause of the condition is unclear, primary stabbing headaches often occur seemingly out of the blue and last only a few seconds. Additionally, the pain usually follows a pattern, moving either vertically on the same side of the head or horizontally across the back or front of the head.

Ice pick headache prevention tips

Ice pick headaches may also occur as a symptom of an alternate health condition including shingles or multiple sclerosis, according to experts at the Cleveland Clinic. The condition is also thought to occur more readily in those susceptible to migraines. However, ice pick headaches are usually not associated with the presence of a brain tumor.

Treatment for an ice pick headache can be tricky since the pain comes and goes so quickly. Instead, experts at the Cleveland Clinic suggest focusing on preventative measures to reduce their chances of occurring in the first place. Such suggestions include taking daily headache medication, melatonin, or prescription pain relief drugs such as indomethacin. In lieu of supplements or medication, however, are there any home remedies that may offer relief from an ice pick headache? In a 2011 study published in the scientific journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, an adolescent male experiencing ice pick headaches underwent intervals of external hand-warming each day along with periods of non-warming. Research findings showed that during periods of daily hand warming, the pain intensity of the participant's ice pick headaches significantly decreased.