What Are the Causes of Ice Pick Headaches?

Written by jeremy ruch
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What Are the Causes of Ice Pick Headaches?
Ice pick headaches are brief, sharp migraines. (headache image by forca from Fotolia.com)

Ice pick headaches are very brief, sharp migraines that are so named because victims often feel as though ice picks are hitting their heads. Unfortunately, while theories abound as to the various possible causes for these kinds of headaches, there isn't much consensus as to a common or definite cause. Still, certain patterns have emerged that highlight potential sources and causes for ice pick headaches.

Broader Migraines and Headaches

Ice picks are very often found in people who are already experiencing migraines for various reasons. Although ice pick headaches by definition end quickly, a longer string of more mild pain is a good indicator that there are more permanent problems causing the ice pick headaches that need to be addressed.


Like other migraines and headaches, ice pick headaches may be caused by adjustments to sensory nerves. According to the Severe Headache Expert website, "You could suggest that the headache is in some way due to inflammation or entrapment of a sensory nerve within the scalp, such as the supraorbital, auriculo-temporal or greater occipital nerve." Nonetheless, there is no strong consensus to support this theory.

Other Triggers

Some people have individualised "triggers" that can lead to migraines, including ice pick headaches. If a patient finds that the same symptom often precedes an ice pick headache, it may be a trigger. According to Sandra Kim Leong, these may include food, pollutants and/or stress.

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