Friday, October 24, 2014
Monday, June 01, 2009 questionmaker, Community Member, asks

Q: stabbing pain left side of head when i cough, pressue and pain in frontal part of head

I have been experiencing a stabbing pain on the left side of my head when I cough, along with pressure and pain in the frontal part of my head. Excedrin usually knocks my headaches out within five minutes, and my headaches are not bad but persistant.  For the past week, though, I will take an Excedrin and it will basically take the headache away, but my head still feels a little achy and pressured, and I still get the sharp pain in the left side of my head when I cough, right around my temple area. My eyelids feel a little heavy.  When I get up too fast, I get a painful throbbing in the left side of my head. 

I went to the urgent care on Saturday and the doctor told me she believed I had "ice pick migraine;"  they drew blood, and she said she wanted to check something in my blood.  I read about ice pick migraine, and I don't think it's that.  It only stabs when I cough or sneeze, not when I bend over, and it doesn't come out of nowhere and last for a matter of minutes.  I've been feeling like this all day every day for the past week, along with being tired. Does anyone know what this might be?

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Answers (2)
Nancy Harris Bonk, Community Member
6/ 7/09 12:54pm

Hi questionmaker,

 A few things come to mind: first is medication overuse headache. How many days a week do you take something to relieve these headaches? Taking certain prescription medications or any kind of pain medication, even over the counter like Excedrin, more than two or three days a week can make matters worse by causing medication overuse headache (MOH), aka rebound. See Medication Overuse Headache - When the Remedy Backfires for more information on this. 

Medication overuse has been shown to be a factor in 80% of cases of transformed Migraine. Stopping the medication overuse is key to stopping the transformed Migraine. You can read more about this in Stopping Medication Overuse Can Halt Transformed Migraine.  Frequent use of NSIADs, pain relievers, and ANY use of opioids or barbiturates are associated with increased risk of transformed Migraine. See Transformed Migraine - Risk Increased by Some Medications for more information on this.

 Pain when coughing, pressure-like sensation and and persistant head pain may be symptoms of another type of headache called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) formerly known as Pseudotumor Cerebri or PTC. We have information on this headache in this article here: Pseudotumor Cerebri (IIH) - The Basics.


Good luck!


wecanjustpretend, Community Member
7/25/09 12:58pm

If you are having any kind of vision problems or eye pain-you may want to look into Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension or Pseudo-Tumor Cerebri.  I thought I was crazy, but I was recently diagnosed with it.  Good luck to you!

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By questionmaker, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/08/14, First Published: 06/01/09