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  • chronic "tension" headaches, physical therapy, maybe allergies too?

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    Old 09-16-2002, 08:53 PM   #1
    myates4767
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    Post chronic "tension" headaches, physical therapy, maybe allergies too?

    I am new to the board but have been suffering from chronic, severe headaches for about 4-5 yrs. I am running out of options and would appreciate anyone's suggestions or similar experiences. I am 22, relatively healthy (except for the headaches obviously), and suffer from chronic tension headaches. The tension is not the kind of tension associated with stress (though that adds to it) but instead from weak muscles and muscle imbalances in my neck and upper back. I have been to neurologists, neurosurgeons, osteopaths, chiropractors, etc. I've been on tons of different medications, none of which really helped. I have had x-rays (which show minor- 12 degree- scoliosis which is thought to contribute to my problems but not really be the source) and I've had an MRI- which didn't show anything significant. I've been told that I'm just too sensitive of a person (which isn't really true) and that the cause is purely stress, but the headaches continue even during long periods of relatively little stress. I am a graduate student so I know stress, reading, and computer work contribute but again, the headaches continue even when these things change for long periods of time (ex. over summer breaks). I have also been told that the problem is weak muscles in my neck and back. I was finally referred to a physical therapist in March, which had been helping me tremendously. She works with me to do stretching, strength building exercises, mechanical traction, and also massage. These things had been helping so much that I hadn't been having to take pain killers or muscle relaxers for quite some time. Unfortunately in the last 5 or 6 weeks my headaches have really come back in almost full force and the physical therapy isn't really making an impact. I haven't been able to track down a change that would have signalled the increase in headaches. By the way, my headaches start at the base of my skull, creeping up to encase my head and jaw, and also include neck pain and upper back and shoulder pain and tightness. The only possible thing that I've been able to think of that might be a contributing factor to this recent change is the increase in seasonal allergies that I have noticed in my area (Illinois). I take allergy medicine which keeps my mild allergies under control so there has been no real change in my allergy status. Also, the headaches that I am experiencing are not like sinus headaches but are the same as my typical headaches with their origin in the muscles at the base of my skull. I really feel like I am out of options and am not sure where I should go from this point. I have accumulated a significant amount of medical bills but don't seem to be further ahead now than I was 6 months ago (though if you had asked me 2 or 3 months ago, I was probably 80% better than I used to be). I am really frustrated with the whole situation, as most of you I am sure understand. Please let me know if anyone has any suggestions, feedback, or experiences to share. I would really appreciate it.
    Thank you,
    Melissa

     
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    Old 09-17-2002, 09:47 AM   #2
    Jaytor
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    Have you evaluated your diet? Exercise, including PT, can help only so far; you also need an appropriate biochem [nutritive components] foundation. Have you been eating optimally for your condition [i.e. enough complete protein to help build muscle, adequate and appropriate fats for good nerve health]?

    What about your sleep habits - is your posture during sleep helping or hindering your PT efforts? Are you getting enough sleep?

    What about the ergonomics of your lecture halls and computer rooms/labs, esp. seating, writing/work surfaces, etc.? If you must twist your torso and legs to fit into a chair, or twist your torso and neck in order to see the board and take notes, you might be undoing any benefits obtained from your PT.

    Granted that these are general comments, but a systematic review of everything you're doing may help.

    Good luck,
    Jay

     
    Old 09-17-2002, 05:24 PM   #3
    mlgable
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    Have you considered trying allergy shots for your allergies? This might help if allergies were part of the cause. Also do you take your allergy medication 365 days a year or just during allergy season and what medication has your allergist prescribed for you? Also if the scoliosis is a contributing factor is there any reason they haven't treated that?

     
    Old 09-18-2002, 02:24 PM   #4
    Super Sarah
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    I think that you would really benefit from having some acupuncture treatment for your headaches. What you describe with pain in the shoulder area and the headache that starts at the back of the neck - the so called up and over headache is a classic sign that you have stagnation in the Gallbladder Meridian. This runs around the shoulder area and all up the back and sides of the head. Most acupuncturists perform massage to help before needling and once all that tension is realeased and all the Qi and Blood is moving again, the pain should be a lot better.

    Please give it a try and good luck.

     
    Old 09-19-2002, 01:34 PM   #5
    mbr22
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    Hi supersarah - where do I find the type of doctor who performs the accupunture you are referring to?

    I live in the Detroit metropolitan area, any tips?

    thanks!
    mbr

     
    Old 09-19-2002, 09:14 PM   #6
    myates4767
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    Thank you for the replies. When it comes to diet, I am a vegetarian, but not a vegan (I still eat dairy). My diet is pretty good- lots of beans, lentils, and dairy products for protein, lots of fruit and some vegetables too. I take a vitamin/mineral supplement as suggested by my doctor. I'm sure my diet isn't that of a super health freak but I'm pretty sure I am covering the nutrients I need.
    My sleep habits are pretty good. I usually get around 7 hrs of sleep but make an effort to get more whenever possible. I tend to sleep on my side, which isn't optimal but am working on getting used to sleeping on my back more. I just bought a new pillow also to see if that might help but have only had it a few days.
    Ergonomics in terms of classes are not great, they are usually the uncomfortable chairs that make me squirm throughout the class but I do sit straight and avoid situating myself in a way that would put additional stress on my body. I also stretch my neck and back at any opportunity during the class that I can- which probably drives everyone around me insane but too bad
    Since my problems really escalated in the last month to 6 weeks (though classes have only been going for a few weeks) and my diet and sleep habits haven't changed I feel like these are probably not the primary things aggravating my head suddenly, but I'm always open for suggestions.
    I have tried allergy shots but they were not effective at treating my symptoms (congestion and popping in my ears, nasal congestion, drainage down the back of my throat). I take Claritin D 24 hr and Nasonex nose spray for my allergies. I've tried regular Claritin, Allegra, Allegra D, and Zyrtec but they also weren't effective. I take the Claritin D and use the nose spray year round. Whenever I go off of them I do notice a significant change with my allergies flairing up.
    For the scoliosis being a contributing factor, it hasn't been treated b/c the only solution would have been to wear a brace when I was still growing or to have surgery now. Since the curvature is only 12 degrees surgery has never been recommended and probably would not be that beneficial. If the muscular problems weren't there, I'm told the scoliosis probably wouldn't be noticable.
    I'm open to the idea of acupuncture but have tried it in the past and actually felt worse for several days after the treatment and didn't notice any relief from the symptoms so I haven't tried it since. Is there some type in particular that I should look for that might be most beneficial?
    Since my headaches aren't usually too bad in the earlier part of the day (though they have really been creeping in on my day earlier lately) I have thought maybe it had to do with eating habits or hormonal cycles during the day. It doesn't seem to matter when I eat or how often though. I am also no longer on birth control pills, which didn't change the headaches and I also don't notice any changes depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle.
    I'm just getting really frustrated since I really thought the PT was the answer to everything since it had been working so well for so long. It was the first thing in 5 yrs to make me feel more like a normal human being and keeping me from wanting to curl up in the corner and cry. But now I'm back to having trouble getting work done in the evenings b/c of the pain and taking pain medication too (though I am careful about how much/often I take it to avoid a rebound headache). I'm just really not sure where to go from here. I've considered trying another neurologist and seeing what he/she suggests (this would be #3) but with my past experiences I don't find that possibility too encouraging. I've also been thinking about trying to find someone who specializes in TMJ, though I have already been told that I don't have it. My jaws don't seem to be the origin of the problem but I do notice that when my headaches get bad, my jaws will act up and the muscles feel tight. I do wear a splint at night which doesn't really seem to make a difference but I wear it anyway. Plus I'm not sure if that would give me the problems I have down into my back, around my shoulder blades but I'm not sure. I have also thought that my other option is an allergy specialist. I really wish there was just a headache specialist in my area that could help lead me through all of these possibilities instead of me just having to guess on my own. I'm sure many of you can sympathize completely with my dilemas. I really appreciate any possible feedback and suggestions so please keep any ideas you have coming my way Sorry for the really long post again.
    Thanks,
    Melissa

     
    Old 09-20-2002, 04:58 AM   #7
    Super Sarah
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    Melissa,

    If you have allergies and sinus problems, can I suggest that you try cutting out dairy produce for a while? It is just that dairy produces lots of mucus and if you have increased mucus, then this can block the sinuses and cause you problems and may be contributing to your allergies.

    Also, if you have PMS generally and have headaches due to this, then this is generally caused by what is known as Liver Qi Stagnation. Acupuncture could really help this and also with your pain too.

    Also, another good way of controlling allergies is to try homeopathic remedies. I would also suggest that if you don't like the idea of acupuncture, then you go and consult a homeopath or an ND, who is a naturopathic doctor, who would have homeopathy as one of his skills.

    Also, do not become too reliant on nasal sprays for unblocking your nose. Long term use can damage the lining of the nose.

    mbr22

    I don't know of an acupuncturist in the Detroit area, but there are acupuncturists around. You could look up under acupuncture or complementary therapists in the phone book or do an internet search and there should be some listed. Make sure that they either have Lic.Ac, Dip.Ac., or MS Acupuncture after their names. Also, you could always go and see an ND - naturopathic doctor rather than an MD. An ND has full training in the same procedures as an MD, but in addition to this they also get training in nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, homeoapthy and acupuncture and some others. I think they probably major in a couple of these therapies. In about 12 States, NDs are licenced as primary care physicians too, as well as MDs, but I am not sure about Detroit.

    I am sure there are NDs in Detroit. I would advise you to go and have treatment from someone who practices traditional acupuncture rather than medical acupuncture, as they use completely different models and the traditional model has survived for over 2,000 years in China and I think that it was really designed to be used with this model. NDs practice traditional acupuncture, whereas MDs are more likely to practice medical acupuncture, which primarily uses what are known as trigger points for pain control. It does not treat you as a whole person like the traditional model does.

    Anyway, up to you, but best of luck and post back with any further questions.



     
    Old 09-20-2002, 07:35 AM   #8
    mbr22
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    Thanks for the info Super Sarah.

    I suffer from chronic daily headache for 10 years now, and am just so frustrated and depressed that nothing ever works.

    I am seeing a new neuro right now, but if nothing works, I will try accupuncture, as that would be a new treatment for me.

    take care,
    mbr

     
    Old 09-21-2002, 11:52 AM   #9
    Super Sarah
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    Thats great. Go for the acupuncture. You really don't need to wait until you have finished seeing the neuro guy though. You can still have acupuncture in conjunction with any conventional treatment.

    Go for it and good luck.

     
    Old 09-21-2002, 06:15 PM   #10
    myates4767
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    I may try to avoid dairy and see if it helps, but I really love dairy and am not sure I could actually carry out not eating it I will try accupuncture again. Is there any particular characteristic I should look for- some kind of certification, etc? I know there are several accupuncturists in my area but don't know how to choose. My chiropractor also offers accupuncture- she uses some kind of light/laser type thing instead of needles. I'm thinking it was something like cold Helium or something strange like that. I think it was a blueish light. Does that make sense or am I way off base? Is something like this as effective as traditional needles?
    I will probably be making an appt to go back to my neurologist (who I really don't trust but he was the first person to refer me to PT, which had been helping so much)and am pretty sure I know what he will want to do next- occipital nerve blocks and cortisone injections. I'm really not fond of the idea, but has anyone else had this procedure done? Any success?
    Thanks,
    Melissa

     
    Old 09-21-2002, 06:17 PM   #11
    myates4767
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    I just saw the previous post about accupuncture licenses, etc. Sorry for the repeat question.
    Melissa

     
    Old 09-22-2002, 11:59 AM   #12
    Super Sarah
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    Hi,

    No, you are not off base with the laser acupuncture. I have heard about it and know of its existence. Not having had this type of treatment, I am not sure how effective it is though.

    Having experienced acupuncture however, I feel that the needles to get in touch with the Qi more.

    From what I have heard, cortisone injections could give you and create more problems for you in the long run. Cortisone is a drug again after all and drugs do cause suppression to whatever degree.

    I would suggest that you have acupuncture from a Naturopath rather than a chiropractor. Although chiropractors are alternative, I do think that they practice a medical style rather than a traditional style and after all, acupuncture was meant to be used with a traditional style that treats the whole person. That is the whole point.

    Good luck

     
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