It can be hard to know how to handle a headache. On the one hand, headaches are very common, and usually not a big deal. On the other hand, your headache could be a sign of a serious, potentially even fatal condition. How do you know?

Well, the only way to know for sure is to talk to your doctor, but there’s also a handy headache mnemonic you can remember that will tell you many of the reasons why you should see a doctor right away for your headache: SNOOP. Here’s what it stands for.

A woman with a bad headache may need treatment from a dentist at River Edge Dental

S-Systemic Symptoms and Risk Factors

If your headache is accompanied by symptoms that affect your entire body, it’s a serious cause for alarm. Some systemic symptoms include fevers, muscle pain, muscle weakness, and even weight loss coupled with headaches over time. Systemic risk factors relate to other conditions such as HIV infection or cancer.

N-Neurological Signs or Symptoms

If your headache is accompanied by a loss of cognitive abilities or neurological function, then you should seek immediate medical attention. Speech problems, inability to remember basic facts such as where they are or the date, loss of muscle function, and vision loss are some examples of these problems.


Onset refers to how quickly a headache occurs, and what caused it to occur. If your headache starts suddenly and is very severe, it needs attention. You should also seek attention if your headache is triggered by exertion, coughing, or sexual activity.

O-Older Age of Onset

When people age 50 or older start experiencing new headaches, it’s a cause for concern. There are many more serious causes that are likely to be behind the headache, so it needs to be checked out.

P-Prior Headaches

How does your current headache compare to previous headaches. If it’s similar, then there’s no cause for concern. However, if it’s much more severe, is related to different causes, is happening more frequently, or has new related symptoms, then it’s a good idea to get treatment for your headache.

Tired of Dealing with Chronic Headaches?

But what if your headache doesn’t need immediate attention? Just because it’s not an emergency doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything about it.

Unfortunately, you may have figured out that your doctor can’t do much for your headaches. If the treatments your doctor (or doctors) recommended aren’t working, maybe it’s time to try something different.

One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is chronic headaches, and worsening headaches are a warning sign for TMJ. If you haven’t been checked out for TMJ, maybe you should. TMJ treatment can often reduce the severity and frequency of headaches. To learn whether it can help you, please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with River Edge TMJ dentist Dr. Marlen Martirossian at the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep, & Reconstructive Dentistry.