Ice Pick Headaches – Treatment, Causes, Symptoms, Remedies

What is Ice Pick Headache?

Ice pick headaches are classified under primary stabbing headaches cluster. Ice pick headache is named as such because it occurs like a series of stabs. It is also being referred to as “jabs” and “jolts”. Some medical professionals would refer it as opthalmodynia and periodica. Patient attacked by this kind of headache is unable to act or respond during the episodic attack. It is often misdiagnosed as migraine or cluster headaches for they have similar kinds of symptoms manifested by the patient. It is often seen in either male or female adults and rarely in adolescents or young children. It becomes more prevalent when one is in the middle age state. It might be due to the fact that they are more prone to the causes that will be mentioned as we go along this disease process.

Ice Pick Headaches pathophysiology, brain image

Picture of Ice pick headache pathophysiology

Image source – Adam Inc


The symptoms or signs that are associated with Ice Pick Headaches are as follows:

  1. Painful headache
  2. Occurs in the head
  3. Sudden type
  4. Brief (within 5 to 30 seconds)
  5. Episodic headaches
  6. Piercing kind of pain
  7. On and Off pain
  8. No other disease condition associated
  9. No other symptoms

It is described as sudden, brief which usually last 5 to 30 seconds, episodic, short lived and recurring headaches, which are usually occurring at regular intervals at irregular frequency. It is also described as a piercing like pain. Patients would often report that they felt as if ice picks have been stabbed in their heads. It occurs mostly in the eye and orbit, which can be felt behind or around the eyes, temple, or a rare occurrence in parietal regions, which trigger the first division of the trigeminal nerve. It feels like you are being stabbed by ice picks, stabbing your head without warning, tending to go in and out of the blue. Person feeling such will report pain that’s sharp and severe leaving you incapacitated. Yet they don’t last long. There should be no accompanying symptoms and no underlying disorders detected.


There is no exact known etiology of why such headaches occur. Some says it is a neurologic idiopathic in nature. However some of these headaches are due to serious problems and some of them are not really leading to serious conditions. Yet recent studies found out that people experiencing migraines, also end up experiencing this kind of headache. Although they are occur independently from migraines. Another study suggests that inflammation, as another cause of this condition. It is said that it may cause adjustment to sensory nerves. Other triggers that may trigger migraine may also trigger ice pick headaches. In addition to that, researchers suggest that certain food, pollutants, and/or stress may lead to having this kind of disease.


To be able to diagnose this condition, the symptoms mentioned above must all be met. First, you have to disregard the possibility of diagnosing it as a migraine or a cluster headache. The doctor usually diagnoses this kind of headache. You should consult the doctor when you manifest the symptoms early so that treatment will be given as soon as possible.


One problem when you are dealing with this kind of headache is that they usually come and go. Treating it is difficult. One difficulty when you are to treat such headache is when the medication has taken its effect, the headache is already gone. This type of headache is felt either in day or at night. It is troublesome when one experiences it at night. It will disturb your sleeping hours.

Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug – Indomethacin

One drug that is often prescribed in this disease is Indomethacin, which is classified under NSAIDS or Non steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug. However, Indomethacin causes discomfort in your digestive system. NSAIDS or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs can aid in moderating the attacks. It blocks the so called COX enzymes and reduces prostaglandin. Thus, inflammatory process (calor, rubor, dolor, funtio laesa, and tumor) is kept to a minimum.

Anti Depressants

Another drug, which can be prescribed, may include anti depressants. Medication classified under this drug will improve your sleep. This is often prescribed to patients who have troubled sleeping at night due to the pain caused by this kind of headache.

Anti epileptic

Some doctors will prescribe an anti epileptic medication. It is also used to induce sleep. Helping you in achieving an uninterrupted and peaceful sleep.

Melatonin Hormone

The hormone melatonin, will aid people who are experiencing this headache at night. It will aid in having adequate peaceful sleep without interruptions.


With regards to remedies that may help aid in minimizing or controlling the symptoms of the headaches, you can both try independent therapy or dependent therapy.
Independent Treatment

Relaxation Techniques

Under the independent therapy, you can try relaxation techniques. It is an independent technique. This can be done through remaining calm and through taking slow, deep breaths. Although in some cases, this kind of headaches will resolve on their own. You just need to discover, identify and remove the stressor that may cause recurrence of this disease condition.


You can also try meditating. You can go to a silent and serene place to meditate. This will relieve you of stress.

Taking Good Care of Your Overall Health

The main important remedy to prevent recurrence or occurrence of this disease is to take care of your overall health.

Eat healthy

You try to eat healthy. It aids in the improvement of your immune system. Include fruits and vegetables. Eat salads. It will help in detoxifying your body.

Do Exercise

You have a proper exercise at least three times a week or probably through walking through stairs instead of using elevators.

Change your lifestyle

Change your lifestyle by staying away from stress as much as you can possibly can. You also try to get at least eight hours in day of uninterrupted sleep. This kind of activity will help in decreasing symptoms felt.

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