How do I Get My Disability Insurance Company to Recognize My Disability Claim for Headaches?

Over the course of many years, Jason Newfield has represented claimants suffering from headaches, migraines, and associated symptoms, as these claims are frequently challenged or claims terminated because of the nature of this illness and the flares and remissions that often exist.   

Long term disability insurance companies view this subjective type of claims opportunistically, knowing that the condition has ups and downs and is not readily documented with diagnostic evidence.  They are seeking objective tests, lab tests or diagnostic imaging that proves the person is suffering from pain from a visible condition – even where the condition – severe headaches – will often not be visible, and most often is described by the patient as the impairing nature of the issues and what must be done to mitigate the manifestations of the condition.

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What is a headache?

Headaches can be more complicated than most people realize. Different kinds have their own sets of symptoms, happen for unique reasons, and need different treatments.   Once you know the type of headache you have, you and your doctor can find the treatment that is most likely to help and even try to prevent them.  Many people cannot find relief despite treatments.

Common Types of Headaches

There are over 150 types of headaches, but the most common types include:

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache among adults and teens. They cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over time. They usually have no other symptoms.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are often described as pounding, throbbing pain. They can last from 4 hours to 3 days and usually happen one to four times a month. Along with the pain, people have other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, noise, or smells; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and upset stomach or belly pain. When a child has a migraine, they may look pale, feel dizzy, and have blurry vision, fever, and an upset stomach. A small number of children’s migraines include digestive symptoms, like vomiting, that happen about once a month.

Cluster Headaches

These headaches are the most severe. You could have intense burning or piercing pain behind or around one eye. It can be throbbing or constant. The pain can be so bad that most people with cluster headaches can’t sit still and will often pace during an attack. On the side of the pain, the eyelid droops, the eye reddens, the pupil gets smaller, or the eye makes tears. The nostril on that side runs or stuffs up.

They’re called cluster headaches because they tend to happen in groups. You might get them one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last 2 weeks to 3 months. Each headache attack lasts 15 minutes to 3 hours. They can wake you up from sleep. The headaches may disappear completely (your doctor will call this remission) for months or years, only to come back later. Men are three to four times more likely to get them than women.

Chronic Daily Headaches

You have this type of headache 15 days or more a month for longer than 3 months. Some are short. Others last more than 4 hours. It’s usually one of the four types of primary headache:

  • Chronic migraine
  • Chronic tension headache
  • New daily persistent headache
  • Hemicrania continua
  • Sinus Headaches

With sinus headaches, you feel a deep and constant pain in your cheekbones, forehead, or on the bridge of your nose. They happen when cavities in your head, called sinuses, get inflamed. The pain usually comes along with other sinus symptoms, like a runny nose, fullness in the ears, fever, and a swollen face. A true sinus headache results from a sinus infection so the gunk that comes out of your nose will be yellow or green, unlike the clear discharge in cluster or migraine headaches.

Posttraumatic Headaches

Posttraumatic stress headaches usually start 2-3 days after a head injury. You’ll feel:

A dull ache that gets worse from time to time

  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Tiring quickly
  • Irritability

Headaches may last for a few months, but any kind of head injury should immediately be evaluated by a medical doctor.

What Causes Headaches?

The pain you feel during a headache comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Specific nerves in your blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to your brain. But it isn’t clear how these signals get turned on in the first place.

Common causes of headaches include:

  • Illness. This can include infections, colds, and fevers. Headaches are also common with conditions like sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), a throat infection, or an ear infection. In some cases, headaches can result from a blow to the head or, rarely, a sign of a more serious medical problem.
  • Stress. Emotional stress and depression as well as alcohol use, skipping meals, changes in sleep patterns, and taking too much medication. Other causes include neck or back strain due to poor posture.
  • Your environment, including secondhand tobacco smoke, strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, allergens, and certain foods. Stress, pollution, noise, lighting, and weather changes are other possible triggers.
  • Genetics. Headaches, especially migraine headaches, tend to run in families. Most children and teens (90%) who have migraines have other family members who get them. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70% chance their child will also have them. If only one parent has a history of these headaches, the risk drops to 25%-50%.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes migraines. One theory suggest that a problem with the electric charge through nerve cells causes a sequence of changes that cause migraines.

Too much physical activity can also trigger a migraine in adults.

How Are Headaches Treated?

Your doctor may recommend different types of treatment to try. They also might suggest more testing or refer you to a headache specialist.

The type of headache treatment you need will depend on a lot of things, including the type of headache you get, how often, and its cause. Some people don’t need medical help at all. But those who do might get medications, electronic medical devices, counseling, stress management, and biofeedback. Your doctor will make a treatment plan to meet your specific needs.

Symptoms and Causes

What is the main cause of a headache?

Headache pain results from signals interacting among your brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerves. During a headache, multiple mechanisms activate specific nerves that affect muscles and blood vessels. These nerves send pain signals to your brain, causing a headache.

Are headaches hereditary?

Headaches tend to run in families, especially migraines. Children who have migraines usually have at least one biological parent who also experiences them. In fact, kids whose parents have migraines are up to four times more likely to develop them.

Headaches can also be triggered by environmental factors shared in a family’s household, such as:

  • Eating certain foods or ingredients, like caffeine, alcohol, fermented foods, chocolate, and cheese.
  • Exposure to allergens.
  • Secondhand smoke.
  • Strong odors from household chemicals or perfumes.

What headache symptoms require immediate medical care?

If you or your child has any of these headache symptoms, get medical care right away:

  • A sudden, new, and severe headache.
  • Headache with a fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or rash.
  • Headaches that occur after a head injury or accident.
  • Getting a new type of headache after age 55.

Also seek medical care right away if your headache is associated with neurological symptoms, such as:

  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sudden loss of balance or falling.
  • Numbness or tingling.
  • Paralysis.
  • Speech difficulties.
  • Mental confusion.
  • Seizures.
  • Personality changes/inappropriate behavior.
  • Vision changes (blurry vision, double vision, or blind spots). 
  • You’re weak on one side of the body, you pass out, have trouble walking, or have other neurological symptoms that worry you.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 for a headache that is very sudden or severe, or if you pass out, are dizzy, become confused, have a seizure or if you have any numbness, weakness, trouble speaking, or new trouble with your vision.

Rebound headache: When you overuse pain drugs to treat a headache for too long, it can cause a headache.

Thunderclap headache: People often call this the first worst headache of your life. It comes out of nowhere, lasts about 5 minutes, then goes away. Causes of this type of headache include:

  • Blood vessel tear, rupture, or blockage.
  • Head injury.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke, which comes from a ruptured blood vessel in your brain.
  • Ischemic stroke, which comes from a blocked blood vessel, a blood clot, or plaque.
  • Narrowed blood vessels surrounding the brain.
  • Inflamed blood vessels
  • Blood pressure changes in late pregnancy


Chart of Headache Locations

Pain location

Most common cause

Other possible causes

Back of your head or neck

Tension headache


Arthritis in your upper spine

Occipital neuralgia

Top of your head

“Hairband” area

Tension headache


Occipital neuralgia

Severe hypertension (rare)

Aneurysm or bleeding called a hemorrhagic stroke (rare)



Behind both eyes

Tension headache


Cluster headache

Sinus infection

Behind one eye

Cluster headache


Occipital neuralgia

Eye infection

Aneurysm (rare)


Tension headache


Cluster headache

Temporal arteritis (more common in the elderly)

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder

Behind the ear

Ear infection (more common in children)

Occipital neuralgia

Sinus infection

TMJ disorder

Dental problems


On one side of your head


Cluster headache

Hemicrania continua (rare)

Aneurysm (rare)

Not sure

Hurts all over

Tension headache


Sinus infection


Will I Be Able to Prove I Have Impairing Headaches to My Long-Term Disability Insurance Company?

There are steps you can take to support your long-term disability claim. The Newfield Law Group helps clients with preparing claims or appeals by making life easier for claimants, by guiding the process, and by providing the insurance company the necessary information to support impairment and have the insurance company accept disability.  Often, insurance company representatives share that our advanced preparation of materials helped to streamline the process for approval of a claim. This is the advantage of working with an experienced disability insurance attorney who has worked with the patient population for two decades.  We have seen your issues before and can help guide the process.

Why Would Someone Need a Long Term Disability Insurance Lawyer?  

Headache claims raise red flags for claims adjusters tasked with weeding out troublesome claims – meaning they are costly to the insurance company and there are several issues the insurance company can easily rely on to delay or ultimately deny the claim.  Many of these claims can be managed – but frequently insurance companies will target these claims and pursue examinations of claimants with such claims.

Some policies carry limited benefit periods for claims that are headache based.  We have had success in overcoming limited benefit period application efforts with these claims.

Subjective nature of headaches.

Like any disability claim involving pain, fatigue or other “invisible” conditions, each individual experiences different pain levels and has different tolerances for pain. Subjective complaints are often not properly considered and they are difficult to prove, so careful consideration of the development of evidence is critical for these claims.

Side effects from medication.

Pain medication is far from the only medication used to combat various headache and migraine issues, although it may be the most common. Side effects from pain medication range from being dizzy, disoriented and fatigued to extreme nausea and constipation.  

Let us Guide You.   Call Our Office Today

When you call Newfield Law Group, you will speak with an attorney who has more than two decades of experience in this highly focused area of the law.  During your consultation, policy terms and medical issues will be discussed, and a strategy developed.  Jason Newfield is honest and straightforward with claimants, recognizing the need for clarity with compassion. We invite you to call today and learn more.  

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