Link Between Stabbing Headaches and Autoimmune Diseases

An Interesting Link That Need More Research

Is Your Stabbing Headache a Sign of an Autoimmune Condition?. Terry Vine/Getty Images

Do you suffer from stabbing head pains, often compared to an ice-pick sensation? Do you also have an autoimmune disease? There may be a connection between the two. Let's examine this phenomenon more closely.

What is a Primary Stabbing Headache?

Primary stabbing headache is a rare, chronic headache disorder. Symptoms of primary stabbing headache include:

  • A single stab or series of stabbing pains in the head (like "ice-pick pains" or "jabs and jolts")
  • Short acting, typically lasting 3 seconds or less
  • Stabs appear in an irregular manner, occurring once to few times a day
  • More commonly experienced by migraineurs

Remember, primary stabbing headache is a primary headache disorder, meaning the stabbing head pains cannot be caused by an underlying medical condition.

Is There a Link Between Primary Stabbing Headache and Autoimmune Conditions?

One study found an association between stabbing headache and various autoimmune conditions like:

The mechanism between how these conditions possibly trigger stabbing headaches is unclear. The authors hypothesize that inflammation of the central nervous system is responsible.

One case study ( a report of an individual patient) found an association between primary stabbing headache and multiple sclerosis.

In this study, a young female developed episodes of stabbing headaches, up to 100 times a day. During one episode, the stabbing head pains were associated with numbness and tingling  of her right arm. Her headaches and neurological symptoms resolved with steroids, which is used to treat relapses in multiple sclerosis.

Bottom Line

Remember, an association does not imply causation. Just because you have stabbing headaches does not mean you also have an autoimmune condition and vice versa. This is simply an interesting link and warrants more research to better understand the "why" behind it.

That being said, this connection may also alter how your doctor treats your stabbing headaches. For instance, he may consider steroids to calm down your stabbing head pain, if you also have an autoimmune condition.

As always, speak with your doctor if you have any medical concerns in order to create a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.


Applebee, A. (2012). The clinical overlap of multiple sclerosis and headache. Headache, Oct;52 Suppl 2:111-6.

Fuh, J.L., Kuo, K.H, (2007). Wang SJ. Primary stabbing headache in a headache clinic. Cephalalgia, Sep;27(9):1005-9.

Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society. (2013). "The International Classification of Headache Disorders: 3rd Edition (beta version)". Cephalalgia, 33(9):629-808.

Klein, M., Woehr,l B, Zeller, G., & Straube, A. (2013). Stabbing Headache as a Sign of Relapses in Multiple Sclerosis. Headache, Jun;53(7):1159-61.

Rampello, L., Malaguarnera, M., Rampello, L., Nicoletti, G., & Battaglia, G. (2012). Stabbing headache in patients with autoimmune disorders. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery.2012 Jul;114(6):751-3.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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