1. Mike Devx says

    I don’t know, DQ, so I went online.
    Most home therapies seem to revolve around restricting the pulsing flow of blood into the head.  (Making them remarkably similar to home therapies for stopping or slowing a nosebleed)
    – Drink iced coffee (vasoconstriction)
    – Ice pack to the back of the neck
    – Lie down with closed eyes in a quiet, dark room.  Long, slow, deep breaths.
    – Slow, circular shoulder and neck/vertebrae massage  (tension reduction)
    – Even aromatherapy, if you believe that can induce relaxation.  Or meditation.
    Probably not much help here, I know…

  2. Mike Devx says

    There were also recommendations for the usual simple over the counter meds for headaches – but apparently you have to take those VERY early in the onslaught or they’re practically worthless.  Sounded too late in your case!  They also recommended the stronger prescription stuff you can get from your licensed pusher  ;-)

  3. says

    Genuinely short-term, but it works for me and I get pretty serious migraines:  stand under shower letting hot water flow over face and head.  Just incredible relief….but before long the water heater can’t keep up.
    If this is a migraine, there are really good new modalities available.  See a neurologist first – tumors and other things can do this…in fact a friend just died of a dissecting aneurysm of the vertebral artery, and along with a painfully stiff neck, a tremendous headache was one of his symptoms (yes, I realize that this is the king of “zebras” when speaking of a headache).
    Anyhow, migraines often present as worse on one side than the other; often exacerbated by light; may include nausea; may be accompanied or preceded by visual disturbances (auras); etc.  Getting help will make you life SO much better!!
    All the best, migraine headaches are one of life’s purest form of torture, so I’m hoping you don’t have ‘em.

  4. says

    Thanks all for your suggestions.  I’m much better today.  I’ve been having these for several years now.  I’ve had two MRIs on my head and neck which have found nothing.  The doctor has been playing trial-and-error and has only found one thing that works about 75% of the time, a drug called Amerge.  Only two problems — I’m not suppose to take it more than two days a week and I have headaches about 4 days a week and, when I do take it and it is overwhelmed by the headache, it is crushing.  I know I’ve got a massive headache coming and I feel like my last lifeline is slipping through my fingers.

    I’ve tried most of the proposed solutions.  Caffeine is an interesting one.  I used to drink large amounts of caffeinated beverages, which the specialist thought might be the cause of the headaches.  I switched to decaffeinated drinks.  It had no effect on the headaches but was probably a healthy thing to do anyway.

    Most suggestions, like hot water and massage, work only while they are being done; the headache reappears as soon as the water or the massage stops.  Over-the-counter drugs don’t work at all.  Earl is right, it’s “one of life’s purest form of torture.”

    Thanks again.

  5. says

    Where is the source of the pain coming from, exactly?
    I had a pain in my neck that throbbed to the sound of my pulse, and such things as ice or warm water would do what DQ described but it would come back. Sleeping for a night usually removed the pain, probably because I was no longer straining my eyes or neck, thus not inhibiting correct blood flow.
    A more permanent solution was stretching my lower spine in a few simple exercises gymnastics might use. That and upper spine work, the back of the head, reinforced the health there and corrected whatever was flowing incorrectly.

  6. jj says

    If this is happening four times a week it’s trying to tell you something.  Especially if you’ve ruled out a neurological, diet, or pathological agent as causative.
    Headaches are event-specific: you drank too much, you slept funny, you ate something bad, you whacked your head, you’re momentarily stressed, your blood pressure spiked, you blew a night’s sleep, etc., etc., any-one-of-ten-million-things.  (Of course the event could also be a result of pathology – a disease.)  What you describe is not that, you’re getting swooped in on from left field for no apparent reason four times a week, apparently unconnected to anything.
    Of course it isn’t unconnected.  There’s a trigger in there somewhere, but you may spend the rest of your life trying to find it.  And, naturally, it may be purely psychological, invisible, and very difficult to assimilate if found.  (And maybe even personally inadmissible.)
    Amerge is serious medicine, basically triptan on steroids, and it has a specific purpose.  Whoever’s prescribing that for you has moved beyond “headache” considerations and is well embarked into “migraine” territory.  As noted, they are not the same thing.

  7. says

    The frustrating thing, jj, is that 90% of the headaches start while I’m asleep and carry on into my day.  I’ve tried changing pillows, sides and all the usual things, even sleeping in a chair, but nothing seems to stop the headaches from coming at night.  I suppose the trigger has something to do with changes in my metabolism during the night (reduction in blood pressure, something to do with blood sugar, whatever) but I’m darned if I know what and the doctors appear clueless.  They keep saying I should be less likely to get the headaches at night. 

    I do think of these as headaches more than migraines because I don’t have most of the migraine symptoms.  I usually don’t get nausea (though sometimes I do) and I’ve never had a aura (though my senses do get off, a feeling of tunnel vision & such).  Mainly, I just hurt. 

    Y-man, It usually starts on the left side of my head, spreads to the whole head, down the neck and into the shoulders and back.  

    I gathered the Amerge is serious medicine (over $3 a pill & individually packaged like precious cargo) but it really does work at least 75% of the time.   Oddly, unlike the other medicines I’ve taken it seems to have no side effects — no tiredness or stoned feeling or upset stomach or anything.  It just takes the headache away.

  8. suek says

    Wow.  It starts at night.  In line with jj’s comment, that means it’s virtually impossible to find something that might be a physical cause – ’cause you’re sleeping when you do whatever might be causing it.  Have you considered consulting a  sleep clinic?  I assume that you’ve also considered a new mattress…maybe it would be as simple as getting one that is firmer, softer, keeping your spine in line – something like that.
    My Dad had back problems.  I’m not exactly sure about the what, where or when of his pain, but I know it was corrected by placing a 1/2 inch piece of plywood underneath his mattress.  I have no idea how that helped, but it apparently did.  Personally – though it would be more difficult to diagnose, I’d much rather find some hidden physical cause than find out it’s due to some equally hard to diagnose disease or condition!

  9. suek says

    Mmmm…should clarify…he put a piece of plywood between the mattress and the boxsprings which was cut to the same size as the mattress, and was 1/2 inch thick.
    Wouldn’t want to leave the impression that a 1/2 inch _little_ piece of plywood was the remedy…!!

  10. says

    <B>It usually starts on the left side of my head, spreads to the whole head, down the neck and into the shoulders and back.  </b>
    Left side suggests constriction or changes to the blood vessels at your temples or even eye nerve/muscles.

    What physical actions do you do differently once you get this pain, btw? [anything from rubbing to body posture to breathing changes. Things like eye movements or even squinting of the eyes] If you do something different and you then get a correlation with the pain spreading, then you can backtrack from what you did and figure out what the action may be doing which is affecting you. It’s not a strong correlation, but it’s better than guessing.

    If heat removes strain from your back, then it is the muscles which are sending pain signals. It may not actually have started from the blood vessels in the head.
    Other possibility is sleep anea, where your breathing cycle becomes totally messed up due to blocks in your air passage ways, causing you to have an interrupted sleep cycle and an improper amount of oxygen in your blood.

    Try out the back stretches. Here’s a few of guides to them.

    Rest on your back, with your knees at an angle like in a regular situp, then put your feet to the ground and parallel with your shoulders. Then put your hands above your shoulders and push your body up. You should hinge at the lower back region like a bridge arch, looking like an A. You won’t be able to go high on the first try unless you have exercised your shoulder muscles already, so just try to hold that position for 20-30s, rest, then try again. You’ll be able to lift yourself up higher and put more strength in your lower spinal area.
    2. Put your back to a horizontal wall. Rest your hands on the wall behind you, so that your fingers are pointing down while your palms are on the wall. Then lean your head back until you’re staring, upside down, at the wall, then walk yourself down the wall. You don’t need to go low to get a benefit from this. Obviously the distance of your feet to the wall will be variable, and it really doesn’t matter in this context.
    3. This exercise won’t require any particular upper body strength. Just lay straight down on a bed or something, then raise both your legs up until they’re over your head. Place your elbows as support to the side of your shoulders. This will allow you to modify how much pressure is on your upper spinal area. So one rep is simply raising your legs from rest to a point over your head and then putting it back to rest. I recommend you either use a wall behind your head as support or go very slowly. This objective is to put enough pressure at the neck area to stretch it in one direction, but not enough to pull anything.
    4. The free standing exercise requires a bit of balance, but it’s just like touching your toes. Except you reach your hands behind your head and bend your back.
    As with all exercises designed to stretch the body, the objective is to power up segments of your body muscles. How far you can go will increase based upon how well your body is adapting, so the point isn’t to reach any physical length or span.
    You can try it when you have a headache, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Too much tension kind of defeats the point of the exercise.

  11. says

    If your back doesn’t like your bed, it’s because your back muscles and spinal cord have atrophied and need a boost up. People can alleviate this stuff with medicine or mattresses, but fixing the core problem is better in my view, which is the body itself.

  12. says

    Because all the signals to your breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc go through your spine, any problems with it will cause systemic errors throughout your body.
    It’s also why yoga works, because when you breathe out, that is when your brain is most receptive to commands.

  13. says

    Wow, DQ……I’m REALLY feeling some empathy.  Mine have NEVER come so often….this is terrible.
    I suspect that if I were in your position, I’d go to UC (where I went with mine) and see the best neurologist I could find (I may have the name of the guy I saw down there in my file somewhere – although it may be in a box in the garage, too) who is also a migraine guy…..just to eliminate, to the greatest degree possible, the migraine hypothesis.
    Once that was out of the way, I think that I’d break down, risk “I told you so” from my daughter (G-d love her!) and consult a chiropractor.
    I wouldn’t stop there , of course — recommendations about your bed are good ones, but be sure you do the changes ONE AT A TIME for a week or so.  That way, you’ll have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t – I’d keep a list and check off the things you try.  I would not mess with a piece of plywood on top of my box springs – I’d get rid of the box springs!  We haven’t used them in 30 years.  Cheaper and more comfortable….use a “platform” under the mattress – I build them with 1×12 pine, covered with three or four pieces of 3/4 inch plywood.  If you’re interested, I’ll provide more detailed instructions.
    My snoring (apnea? No real signs) has diminished a great deal by use of a Dura-foam pillow with a “wave form” – the larger wave at the front for my neck and the smaller one on the other side where the top of my head is (flat on the bottom).  I NEVER imagined using a foam pillow – swore by down/feather and hated foam.  But this one has made such a difference in my sleep that I pack it in my suitcase when I travel!!
    Anyhow, I”m saying a prayer for you – life is too short to suffer this way.  Keep at it – a teaching center is your best bet for physicians who will know about the “zebras”, as well as the “horses”….your headaches are hoofbeats, DQ, and they mean SOMETHING.  Don’t give up and just hunker down and take it!

  14. jj says

    Hmm.  Migraine symptoms aren’t universal or invariable – plenty of people get all, some, or even none.  Your doctor is certainly treating you with migraine medicine – maybe you two should talk!
    Interesting that it comes with sleep.  Sleep is an odd time, and the use humanity makes of night is only poorly understood, but a lot goes on.  It’s when both our physical self and psyche accomplish a number of things, most of which may be thought of as sort of generalized “house-keeping,” “updating,” and “re-wiring.”  Physically, night is when your systems, ordinarily focused on the outside world, turn inward.  Blood pressure goes down, but blood flow also becomes more focused, and night is when you complete digestion, heal (wounds and bones heal much faster when you’re asleep),  and when you’re a child, night is when you grow. (As Erikson noted, a lot of stuff happens in sleep – almost none of it rest!  He even took it a step further and said okay, if it isn’t about rest, then what are we doing?  Nobody really knows.)
    As far as the psyche’s concerned, you dream.  Even those of us who don’t remember dreams do dream every night, it’s part of the daily process.  Dreams may be “to work things out” as your grandmother said, or relieve tension (or store it), or they may have other purposes – and may have several simultaneous purposes.  The brain asleep is no more amenable to being pinned down than it is awake.  Nobody really knows, which is why you analyze dreams as individuals, and try to relate them to waking events – while keeping in mind that you’re looking at the one dream your patient remembers out of the however many he/she had that night!  (Could be one of fifty.  Did the patient remember the genuinely important one out of the fifty?  The theory is that the ones they remember are generally “important,” but really all you can do is hope so…)
    People also can have physical reactions to dreams.  Just like the dog running in his sleep, so can you.  You can get excited, mad, sad, joyous – the full spectrum.  Your blood pressure can go up and your adrenal glands pump to get you ready when you’re asleep just as they do when you’re awake.  You can thrash and try to flop around like a gaffed fish.  (You mostly won’t succeed in that, by the way.  We are descended from creatures who lived in trees, and there is an element of paralysis in our dreaming stages, designed to keep us from throwing ourselves out of the tree and into the mouth of that lion down there.  If you get out of synch and come too close to the surface in this stage, you may notice that you can’t move, and decide that you’ve been abducted by aliens and taken to their ship, there to be horribly experimented upon by amazing instruments that leave no scars.)
    You, interestingly enough, sound somewhat like you’re having a physical reaction to the psychological process.  You go to bed perfectly comfortably (I assume, you report you’ve changed pillows, mattresses, positions – everything changeable) and yet in the night something happens. Okay – what happens at night?  Well, all of the stuff previously mentioned above, but I’m going to go with mental activity.  You’re being physical with your dreams, or (more likely) when the filters are down in sleep you’re reacting to some constant (four nights a week) stress in the background that you don’t let loose during consciousness.
    Maybe deep down inside you hate hanging around with lawyers.  I have no idea, but at this point, after all the physical rule-out stuff you’ve already done, maybe it’s time to go pay a visit to a shrink.  Weirdly enough, it occasionally works.

  15. says

    You folks are amazing and I appreciate it!  I should mention I tried 4 months every night with an apnea machine (no effect) and a couple of shrinks (no effect either).   My boss suggested my glasses are pressing the sides of my head.  Maybe it’s the release of that pressure at night that has an effect.  Anybody ever hear of such a thing?  

    I have talked with my doc and he is satisfied that I’m having migraines despite the lack of symptoms.  And I suppose he has a point, since the Amerge works.  It’s just that I don’t think of them that way. 

  16. says

    I’m so glad you’re feeling better today, DQ.  As a migraine sufferer myself, you have my complete empathy.  Have you ever tried taking drugs in combination?  Ibuprofin alone does not affect my headaches.  Maxalt alone does not affect my headaches.  Taking both at the same time, however, when the headache starts, will knock them out, or at least relegate them to the background, about 90% of the time.

    Perhaps the problem is that your brain is just too powerful.  At night, your subconscious is processing information with such speed that you get the brain equivalent of a friction burn.  (And for those of you who think I’m being facetious — well, only a little.  DQ is definitely one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but I don’t think nocturnal brain activity is high on the list of migraine causes.)

  17. ELaineT says

    A neurologist I saw when I wasn’t sure I was having migraines, remarked:  Did migraine medicine help?  If it did, then it was a migraine.
    I sometimes have double migraines – both sides of the head.  Thank heavens for modern medicine.  Migraine medicine works on them therefore I count them as migraines.
    Some years ago I basically had continuous migraines.  I’d take medicine, they’d go away, as the medicine wore off they’d come back.   That turned out to be a hormone problem.
    But I still occasionally got them, they just weren’t all the time.  And sometimes they’d start at night – or at least the pain would.  I’d eventually realize I’d felt that ‘on coming’ feeling before bed, but I don’t have the classic aura etc., usually, either.  (what I do notice is thirst.)  Those, especially night onset ones have practically vanished as I got treatment for thyroid disease (hormones again).
    Now, most times I get a debilitating headache I can trace it to allergies.  Or tweaking my synthroid dose.  And migraine medicine works on them.
    Another problem I’ve had is what I call ‘pressure change headaches” which make migraines feel like a walk in the park.  I first noticed them when we drove to stay in the mountains.  They feel like the brain is too large for the skull.  Just cut my head off (without moving it) and put it in ice and maybe I’ll feel better.  IQ drops through the floor.  Nothing works to relieve the pain.  Driving not recommended.  Of course when it first happened we were camping and I was the lone adult.  No tragedies occurred, fortunately, and we did get the tent up.
    After the second occurrence on a second mountain trip I figured it was a form of altitude sickness.  Then I got two of those at home (around sea level/SF Bay Area) and eventually decided it was air pressure changes.  What helps these a lot is vinpocetine.  I can’t take the usual altitude sickness meds, as they are sulfa-based, and I’m allergic.
    What this is all leading up to is neurologists can check you over for some things, but there may be other systemic issues that are causing your problems and you probably ought to expand your specialists.  Having a medicine that helps is one thing; having the problem actually dwindle to 1/10 of what it used to be is better.  Given my own experiences I recommend getting checked by an endocrinologist.

  18. Mike Devx says

    DQ said:
    > The frustrating thing, jj, is that 90% of the headaches start while I’m asleep and carry on into my day.  I’ve tried changing pillows, sides and all the usual things, even sleeping in a chair, but nothing seems to stop the headaches from coming at night.

    Clearly, the solution is a video camera to monitor you in bed at night, while you’re sleeping.

    Then, when your wife suddenly appears on camera at the side of the bed and smacks you hard over the head with a frying pan then quickly departs, you will have the proof!

    Seriously, it may or may not be a classic migraine, but it’s occurring with regularity four times a week and is crushing.   It’s not just a headache, it’s a chronic medical problem. I doubt there is anything you are *doing* that is triggering it.   Consider late-night dehydration (not enough water in the latter half of the day?  Or, perhaps there might be a non-obtrusive way to have your blood pressure monitored through the night for a week?

    My diabetes, on those days when coupled with dehydration and too much coffee, causes me cramps in many of the small muscles of the lower leg and feet – but only after I lie down to go to sleep, and often they don’t begin until after I’m asleep.  That’s what leads me to wonder if dehydration is a trigger that takes full effect only later into the night, once you’re asleep, bringing on in your case the headache effect.  It’s sneaky because you never realize you’re dehydrated.

  19. Mike Devx says

    jj #9:
    > And, naturally, it may be purely psychological, invisible, and very difficult to assimilate if found.  (And maybe even personally inadmissible.)

    Which leads to the old (blue) question-and-answer-joke (apologies in advance) :
    Question: What is an abnormally high number of times for a man to masturbate per week?
    Answer: One more than whatever it is I do.
    (Or in DQ’s case… five!)
    (as I said, apologies!)

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