Headaches are the hardest

I have accumulated a number of electrotherapy devices to reduce pain but I must admit that I cannot give unqualified support to these aids when it comes to chronic headaches. Thank goodness for the effective medication which I will describe.

I have been given various diagnoses such as cluster headaches, non-classical migraine, neuropathic pain, old whiplash injury, the C2 joint becoming locked, restrictive movement of head caused by postural weakness/ muscle rigidity/ joint stiffness in upper and mid-back, shoulders or neck which can disturb the occipital nerve,  hormonal fluctuations that causes rigidity of upper back which impacts on my neck, fibromyalgia,  aggravation of myofascial points in my shoulders …whatever!!!

My headaches are easily exacerbated by heat, by working on the computer, by sleeping on the wrong side at night, by chiropractic adjustment, by menstrual patterns, by expending a huge amount of energy, by turning my head whilst swimming, by travelling long distances, by emotional tension, by looking at electronic screens for too long, by lack of sleep, by BEING ALIVE!!!

a headache is starting

stuck on public transport when I need to get home to bed NOW!

I am interested to know that there is now a theory* that migraines involve neural activity which (if I understand this correctly) would fit with my whole condition so that the headaches are just one painful manifestation of nerve disturbance which I also experience in other parts of my body. A specialist explained to me that the overly sensitive nervous system is at the base of why the muscles, connective tissue and nerves become so aggravated.  Over time repeated episodes of pain lead to entrenched and faulty reactions in the body. Again, if I understand it correctly, this malfunction of the nerves works in conjunction with the malfunction of soft tissue around the skeleton to produce pain that perpetuates itself.

Older medications for migraine (e.g. Ergodryl) were not as effective at reducing the pain for me or took a lot longer to work and required more than one dose. Even then I would spend inordinate amounts of time lying in bed with a cold washer covering my left eye and that side of my head. Sometimes I would still need an injection to stop the vomiting and rushing to the toilet. As I write this I feel myself  re-living how the minutes passed so slowly as the pain kept jabbing into the back of my eye … the waiting and waiting for the driving pulsating pain to subside or be obliterated by merciful sleep.

 ### throbbing eye ### 

throbbing eye


Thankfully Sumatriptan has intercepted this torturous occurrence and within 45 mins of taking this medication I can feel the pain subsiding. Of course you cannot simply shop for this – it has taken years of pain and various treatments to arrive at the effective medication I now take – your headaches may not be identical to mine so keep  my Disclaimer in mind.

There is one thing I can recommend for the reduction of headaches for fellow sufferers – swimming! especially back-stroke!  as much as possible! It seems to work for me in 2 ways. 1. The constant coldness of the water on the back of the upper body and head dulls the pain and generally seems to calm the nervous system. 2. The repetitive but smooth action of the shoulders relieves the deep clenching of one of my shoulders and the tension in the spine of my upper body. I am not talking about tense muscles which massage can ease – yes the muscles are tight, but this is a lifetime of restriction which operates continuously on the structure and fabric of my body. An extra tip about backstroke – while moving through the water lengthen out the back of your neck by looking at your toes splashing but don’t lift the head, instead, tuck in the chin. Somehow swimming (every 2nd day)** tones the body so that it reduces the number of headaches I suffer. Swimming also provides greater alleviation of pain than having a deep massage – plus it is something I can do for myself! I hope  you can think of another activity that will reduce your headaches if swimming is not possible.

* http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11359360

** On alternate days I do different types of exercises that are more effective for the pain in my lower body.

### pulsing eye### Courtesy http://www.creativecolours.org/freebies.html


Finding the right pillow

Hi there Fellow Pain Sufferers,

I acknowledge that it’s been a while since the first post – I have just been through a rough episode of headaches when I tried to find a new pillow. The old one is wearing out from several years of compression. It was never going to be a long-term solution anyway. I had reversed an egg-foam contoured pillow as I found the foam on the underside to be softer and less dense. However that pillow manufacturer no longer makes that  pillow as it prefers, naturally enough, to make a pillow from sturdier, longer-lasting foam.

It’s difficult to explain to people selling bedding what I need in a pillow.

Yes, foam is good.

No, not memory foam (which feels like it is  moulding tightly around my head).

Yes, soft.

No, some soft ones can compact into a hard brick under my head.

Yes, it needs to be low as otherwise it can feel like my neck is being stretched higher than it wants to go.

No, some low ones are still too high.

And it all depends on the surface of the bed I’m lying on – if the bed is too soft that is enough to make some low pillows seem too high and my neck feels under pressure again.

If it all sounds as if I’m being too fussy it only takes a short time lying on the wrong type of pillow before I wake up in trouble. Both my eyes become bloodshot and narrowed. I am going to need some serious medication to recover.  It isn’t a normal case of needing to take a week or so to adjust  to a new pillow. If it causes my head to feel rigidly compressed  then I will never adjust to it. I don’t know whether it’s the nerves, the blood vessels, the muscles- something feels like it is being pressured – all I know is that I have got to get off that particular pillow.

Needless to say I have a huge collection of pillows for visitors.

Last week I got pretty desperate for the umpteenth time when I had very carefully worked out with a chiropractor what would be the next most suitable trial – only to wake up in a very short time with the kind of glittering headache that a migraine tablet alone can deal with. In desperation I cut up some foam and combined it with a low feather pillow, I tried a child’s first pillow, I cut foam off a homeless person’s bed (only a tiny amount!) in case it was of a less-dense variety, I googled other people’s solutions for pillows which support the head but do not trigger headaches …

Eventually I looked back at a pillow I had as a teenager which I had saved for just such an occasion. I googled the words on the label and eventually tracked down a manufacturer in the U.S. (I live in Australia) and arranged through Amazon to order that type. It arrived a few days ago and I am fine. When I awoke later during the night without head pain I felt a deep level of relief which has lasted for a number of days.

my old disgusting pillow

This information may be totally useless to you as I realise that my head is extra-sensitive – I never lie on my left side even when I have a suitable pillow as it stirs up a headache on the left. And I never attempt lying down unless I have taken pain medication for the nervous system. Consequently I sleep on my back or on my right hand side and I don’t take naps or lie on a lounge during the day.

For the record the pillow is a Dupont Dacron II Polyester Hollofill. **  If you have found a pillow that works for you, stick with it. If you need a new pillow in the future and you were not satisfied with your old one then you might consider this pillow. I would only write this blog if I thought that some of my ways of alleviating pain were transferable to others who suffer with chronic pain. If the diagnosis ( I am referring to chronic myofascial pain with a component of nerve disturbance) is correct then there have to be common physiological changes that can be addressed in the similar ways.