“What are Ice Pick Headaches, and should I be worried?”

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Stabbing Headache Pain, Explained- Ice pick headache pain is excruciating, but here’s good news: its bark is worse than its bite, according to researchers.


PubMed defines ice pick headaches, or primary stabbing headaches, as “brief, short-lived attacks of head pain, which recur multiple times throughout the day.” Migraine patients concur that the name “ice pick headache” is fitting; although lasting a mere few seconds, they really do feel like an invisible ice pick mercilessly ramming itself into your eyes and forehead.

The criteria for primary stabbing headaches are:

  • Brief, singular stabs of head pain that may occur in sequences
  • Pain lasts for 5-30 seconds, but may repeat throughout the day
  • Pain occurs behind the eye sockets or the temporal area of the head
  • Head pain occurs without any other symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness
  • The headache is primary, meaning that it does not signal any underlying injury, disorder, or life-threatening illness
  • Jabbing pain occurs without warning, although some migraine patients attribute ice pick headaches to stress

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Not exactly a migraine attack

Although ice pick headaches are common for migraineurs– experts believe that 40% of all migraine headache sufferers experience an ice pick headache at least once- they are not associated with migraine attacks.  A stabbing headache occurs without any of the distinguishing symptoms of migraine attacks, such as nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, aura, light sensitivity, or speech slurring.  Ice pick headaches come and go by themselves, without any accompanying side effects.  Related reading: The Four Phases of Migraine Headache Attacks

What medications treat ice pick headaches?

Ice pick headaches strike like lightening; here one second, gone the next.  Because they occur without warning, it’s impossible to prescribe any type of pain relieving medication to treat ice pick head pain.  Rather, some neurologists endorse the use of preventative migraine treatments for individuals who experience frequent ice pick headaches.

  • Indomethacin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that some physicians prescribe for ice pick migraines.  Long-term side effects may include heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, and stomach ulcers.
  • Melatonin is an alternative treatment for stabbing headaches that some migraine patients have found beneficial for preventing headaches.
  • Natural ingredients for migraines: Another popular migraine tactic includes the use of butterbur extract, magnesium, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10 for optimum neurological health.  Researchers have proven that supplementing with a combination of these beneficial nutrients and herbs will effectively provide positive, long-lasting results.

Read more about beneficial nutrients for migraines:

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Effective management of ice pick pains, SUNCT, and episodic and chronic paroxysmal hemicrania

Stabbing Pains in the Head? You Might Have Ice Pick Headaches :  : Migraine Survival

The Johns Hopkins Headache Center | Primary Stabbing Headache

Primary Stabbing Headache – General Health Blog

Ice Pick Headaches – The Basics