I’ve had headaches for almost as long as I can remember. I know I had them in high school, and I think I had them in junior high and at least a little throughout elementary. I’ve relied mostly on a mixture of over-the-counter pain medications, prescription preventive medications, acupuncture, cupping, massage and chiropractic care, none of which has proven overly helpful.
I recently read a book about chronic pain and how we typically treat it. The book – Total Recovery, by Gary Kaplan – wasn’t directed at people with headaches, but there were several references to headaches and a few examples of the author’s patients who had been dealing with chronic headaches.
Any time I read a book like this, I open it up and am skeptical. I felt this way about Wheat Belly too. I look at the book and think, “What a quack! This will be a waste of time!” But I read it anyway, because I haven’t been super impressed with my regular doctors. With both books, I read the entire thing, cover to cover, in two or three days. I find the books fascinating, but part of my interest has got to be attributed to my desire for any glimmer of hope for a solution to my headaches, and these books have that.
If you have headaches, you’ve maybe read some online forums from other headache sufferers. I usually come across these when I’m googling new prescriptions my neurologist wants me to try. I have headaches most days of the week, but my headaches aren’t anywhere near as debilitating as some of the people in these forums. I’m so sorry if the pain you’re experiencing is daily and keeping you from living life. Reading the stories and the histories of the medications they’ve tried is heartbreaking.
That’s why I’m a little desperate when I’m reading these books. I could go on about the horror stories, but I won’t. Let me just say that there are a lot of people out there who experience excruciating levels of pain every day. I obviously know nothing about their backgrounds or what got them to these places, but I’m compassionate to their suffering.
My headaches sort of go in waves. I typically get three to five per week, but the headaches could vary in intensity and in strength. So I might have a week where I have five days with headaches, but each one goes away within 60 minutes of taking Excedrin Migraine – that’s considered an OK week. (Excedrin is the ONLY pain medication that works for me, by the way — the prescription pain meds I’ve tried don’t do anything for me.) I might have another week where I only have three days with headaches, but the intensity is severe and Excedrin doesn’t kill the pain, so the headache goes for three days straight while I try to take Excedrin over and over (cue the stomach-ache) throughout the three days hoping one of those doses ends up being killing the headache. Other weeks I might only have one or two minor headaches that go away as soon as I take Excedrin. Those weeks are amazing.
Every time a headache comes on, anxiety sets in because I have no idea how it’s going to go. Either I can take Excedrin and the headache will go away within an hour or I can take Excedrin and the headache won’t go away, possibly for days. If the headache goes away quickly, I am so grateful – I have this super appreciative outlook on life for the rest of the day. If the headache doesn’t go away, I spiral into a dark place. I wonder how long the headache will last, how long before I start feeling sick to my stomach, when should I try taking more Excedrin, will that additional dosage help or just make me sicker, etc.
The book I recently read was great because it talked about the importance of figuring out why we have these problems instead of just trying to “treat” them. My current neurologist seems to be focused mostly on treating my problem, and her method of treatment is trying prescription after prescription. We’ve talked about why she’s giving me a prescription – over-active or hyper-active nerves. But we haven’t talked about why my nerves are like that in the first place.
If I was giving her the benefit of the doubt, I’d say that her plan is for me to find a prescription that calms my nerves first, decreases the number of headaches I’m having per month and the amount of Excedrin I’m having, and THEN figuring out what’s causing my nerves to act up. But she’s never mentioned that being part of her plan.
Now, I have to take accountability for where I’m at. I’m the patient, and I own my health. I have unfortunately just trusted that it was safe to take large amount of Excedrin since it’s sold over-the-counter, but obviously lots of unhealthy things are sold on store shelves. I also should have tried to do more research about headaches and maybe visited more doctors before starting a treatment plan. I’m doing that now; we’ll see what happens.
I hope that five or 10 years from now, headaches are no longer a mystery. I hope that there are clear, proven treatment plans that just work for everyone. I hope the answer isn’t some kind of scary medication that damages other parts of our bodies or causes other nasty side effects.