Know Your Pain

Chiari Malformation Headache

Most headaches have ordinary causes behind them. However, there are some uncommon and rare causes which result in headache. Chiari Malformation is one such cause of headache. It is rare condition in which the back of the brain is not formed properly, due to which it gets extended into the spinal tract. This results in the narrowing of cerebrospinal pathways.

Chiari Malformation is a rare disorder. Hence, you would not find too many people suffering from it. Further, while most people suffering from Chiari Malformation are asymptomatic, headaches with coughing is one of the major symptoms of Chiari Malformation.
How to Diagnose Chiari Malformation Headache

Chiari Malformation is of two types- type I and Type 2. Headache usually occurs in type I Chiari Malformation.

* As indicated above, the first symptom of Chiari Malformation headache is headache accompanied by coughing and/or Valsalva manoeuvre. However, this can be misleading as well because general population also suffers from headaches which are similar to Chiari Malformation in terms of description. The distinguishing factor is the duration of the headache. If the headache lasts for more than a few seconds, it is because of Chiari Malformation. Otherwise it is only a cough headache.
* Presence of headaches in the occipital and sub-occipital region of the brain for long duration of time.
* It is usually associated with other types of symptoms such as loss of fine motor skills, problems with coordination, vertigo and other types of cerebral and cervical cord dysfunction.

Treatment of Chiari Malformation Headache

As it has been pointed out, Chiari malformation headaches emerge from a rare cerebro-spinal birth disorder. The cause of this disorder is a misshapen skull or an elongated part of the lower brain, which then extends into the spine. Correction then requires either correcting the shape of the skull or operating upon the affected portion of the brain. Currently, only this seems to be the best way to eliminate headaches of Chiari malformation. No medication exists which can provide treatment otherwise.

Chances of Success of Treatment

The surgery to be performed can be done through various techniques. On occasions shunts are utilized to eliminate the problem whereas on other occasions some part of cervical vertebra and part of the lower skull is removed. In all there are about twenty different ways to operate upon the problem. However, the success rate varies from technique to technique.


Chiari Malformation is a rare disorder. Hence, you should not panic at the slightest sign of headache with pain. It could be a simple headache. However, do watch out for other symptoms and let the doctor do a proper analysis. Only a rigid evaluation of the symptoms along radiological and clinical criteria should be used for proper analysis.