Posted by: Lina | 2009/03/18

headache made me pass out.


I am a 30 year old female. I am used to dealing with headaches. I normally get either really bad sinus headaches or migraines both of which i am familiar with and comfortable treating.

Yesterday however I started with a headache at the back of my neck. The pain flows from my neck up toward the crown of my head. It is not a usual pain. It feels almost like pins and needles and it feels very pressurized. I feel almost dizzy and light headed. Usually headaches makes your head feel heavy this one feels the complete opposite. Like I said it started yesterday morning by the end of the day it was so bad i fainted in the office. after i fainted the pressure eased off slightly but an hour so later it was back. this morning it' s just as bad as it was yesterday. the pain is mainly focussed on the back of my neck.

when i lean back in my chair to rest it the pain in my neck is very bad as soon as i lift my head i am dizzy and the pain moves to the crown and then settles on my neck again,

Is this a tension headache? I am worried about driving as I was in my chair when i passed out yesterday.

Any advice? or ideas on what this could be. Oh and as I am sitting her typing this I can feel like pins and needle tingling on and around my nose and upper lip.

Please advise.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageHeadache expert

Dear Lina,

The symptoms that you have described occur in some headache and migraine sufferers, and are caused by the nerves to the scalp becoming sensitive – it is called ‘cutaneous allodynia’. It is a reaction to an underlying problem – when this underlying problem is correctly diagnosed and treated, then the cutaneous allodynia disappears.

Although the sinuses can play a part in the headache process, it is not nearly as common as people think. Research from headache clinics throughout the world shows that “sinus headache” is the most common misdiagnosis. Just because the pain is in the area of the sinuses, or because the patient has a post-nasal drip or blocked nose when the headache strikes, doesn’t mean that the sinuses are responsible. In fact what often happens is that when the underlying cause of the headache is treated, the sinus problems often clear up.

To get to the root of the problem, you need what is called a “multidisciplinary assessment”. There are so many different structures in the head and neck, all of which can be involved in the headache process, that no single specialist can have all the knowledge necessary to make a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis. For instance, a neurologist will examine the brain and nervous system, a physiotherapist will look at the muscles, a dentist will examine the teeth etc. For this reason, the “multidisciplinary assessment” combines and integrates the expertise of different specialists who would normally treat headache patients in isolation, into a single more comprehensive body of knowledge. This enables the different members of the team to provide a co-ordinated treatment plan, so that all the contributing factors are addressed.

This assessment must include a thorough examination of the head and neck muscles to determine the presence of abnormal tension, and of the external carotid vasculature to determine whether there is an arterial element to the pain.

Headache sufferers often have a poor Quality of Life due to the constant pain and associated symptoms. For a free assessment of how your headaches are affecting your Quality of Life, click on

This information has been supplied and checked by the multidisciplinary team of specialists at The Headache Clinic, in association with The International Headache Society and the South African Institute of Headache and Migraine Science. For consultation with these specialists, call The Headache Clinic (Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg) on 0861 678 911.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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