Anyone else suffer from chronic tension headaches and have some tips for how to deal, or alternative remedies? I’ve had a tension headache for the past 2 1/2 weeks. It waxes and wanes, but I generally wake up with it and go to sleep with it, with minimal respite. I'm also feeling nauseous and weak with the headache. Unfortunately, my migraines usually start with tension headaches so I’ve had about 5 over the same time frame, which is way more than I usually have (2-3 a month).
I haven’t been sick, am healthy in my mid-twenties, get plenty of sleep, haven’t started new meds, drink lots of water, and don’t eat/drink artificial sweeteners. I’m on a preventative for migraines (Propanolol), and take Imitrex when the headaches actually cross the line into migraine. I saw my doctor yesterday and she is pretty stumped on the cause. She ran blood work and suggested I start with taking Sudafed, in case my headache is sinus-related, then have a follow-up appointment in the month.
In the mean time I’m having trouble functioning and would love to hear any advice people could give me. I have a busy life with two jobs, my horses, boyfriend and social life, and all I really want to do is crash after work in bed, in the dark (and making it through work is tough). I’ve also wound up with an ulcer, so I’m limited in what NSAIDs I can take for pain relief without wanting to crawl up the walls (Imitrex too but I will take burning ulcer pain over a migraine). Any ideas for what to do/try? I really would like to get on with a functioning life and not feel like hot dog doo.
Some thoughts for what I went through with my chronic headaches a couple years ago:
-Allergies? They can develop as you get older...
-Have you seen a chiropractor? I started, helped for a little bit, then stopped helping.
-Can you afford therapeutic massage?
-Do you sit, either in a chair or car, for extended periods of time? Do you use a keyboard/mouse a lot, or otherwise sit in an awkward position? Posture can play a role here.
-Have you considered acupuncture?
I started having headaches, more neck/back of head than tension, a couple years. Probably related to heavy duty gear plus sitting in a patrol car for extended periods of time while wearing a duty belt. The neck pain was such that if I turned my head at night, it woke me up.
The chiro work helped for a bit but with decreasing results. I saw my doc two years later about it, who ordered some rads and then an MRI based off that. Rads showed some closeness in a few of the neck vertebrae, MRI showed "nothing." Nurse on the phone recommend I "stretch" to ease headaches. Thanks lady, I hadn't thought of that. I did massage, with eased some of the tension in my back and shoulders, which in turn helped with my neck pain and headaches, but was temporary relief. Last ditch effort: acupuncture. After three appointments, I had my first neck-pain-free sleep in years.
Of course, now I'm finding that the results are starting to wear off faster, just like the chiro did two years ago, but it has been the best relief so far. What I probably need more than anything else is someone's gramma to constantly fuss at me to sit up straight.
COTH's official mini-donk enabler
"I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl
Have you tried seeing a chiropractor? I know different things work for different people...for me, the chiropractor made a huge difference! I have chronic migraines. Meds didn't work (I tried many different meds in different classes, including off label, as prescribed by my neurologists). Since I've been going to the chiropractor, the number of headaches I get has gradually declined. I'm down to one more minor migraine every 7-12 days, where I used to have more severe migraines 5-6 days a week.
Ok totally bizzarre but inavasive. Have someone brush your hair and or massage your scalp. Neti pot.!!! Soak in a long hot bath and submerse your head under the water.
I used to have terrrible headaches tension, sinus, and migraine, these things helped. I also went on a very restricted diet (heart healthy cholesterol no fat) in July and have ALOT less headaches since then.
Gosh how headaches stink. They are very debilitating. All these things can be done along with above mentioned ideas. Good luck.
I'm interested in hearing the responses too as I've been dealing with debilitating migraines for the last 7 months or so. Chiropractic has helped some (they suspect a pinched nerve in the neck) but not entirely. OP - sent you a PM too.
It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.
Me. I don't get tension headaches but have chronic headaches and migraines. I more or less had a headache almost everyday in January. My headaches are typically worse in the fall and winter though oddly enough, I had very few (for me) this fall. That said, I was on prednisone for almost a full month and maybe that had something to do with it?
I need to see a doctor and experiment with meds again. I just hate trying new medications (for migraines) because I have had bad reactions to some. Side effects from Imitrex are as bad as the migraine itself. The best thing for me is sleep and dark rooms, but when you get them so frequently...
I do plan to see a chiropractor. I figure it can't hurt and the worst that will happen is it won't help.
My headaches are caused mainly by the weather (barometric pressure) and lights (overhead fluorescent are the worst but pretty much everything my incandescent bulbs give me headaches...). So in my office at work... I have the lights directly above me removed but I need the set in front of me removed and my office mate refuses... I need to press the issue though but that's another entirely. I do have food triggers, but avoid them.
Not chronic headaches, but recurrent /chronic neck and shoulder pain that can trigger headaches. All of the following have helped me
Contour tempurpedic pillow
Memory foam mattress topper
Prescription muscle relaxer
I had a combination headache (migraine & tension) headache that lasted from mid April until July of last year.
I now have occaisonal migraines, and I'm getting better at managing them all the time.
The biggest thing for me is that I have yet to find a medication that touches the pain. So I can relate to you; why take meds that are just putting pointless strain on my liver and doing nothing? Sure, I can take a Tylenol 3 and sleep for 5 hours, but I still hurt when I wake up.
Is there any possible treatment for the ulcers? I admit to knowing little about them, but are there any supplements you can safely take, special diets, medications, etc.?
Have you tried other medications in the triptan family? (info for other readers) They're headache inhibitors. You take them within the first 1-2 hours of a headache (or earlier, if you have migraines w/aura) and they narrow the blood vessels back to their normal state and thereby reduce the pain (that's the cliff's notes version, obviously, ask your doctor). I've tried Rizatriptan (brand name Maxalt) and Sumatriptan (older, available as a generic, also Imitrex). If
You can't drive or do anything strenuous after taking them, for a few hours, because they can seriously trip some people out. I just behave illogically, like making myself Kraft Dinner when I don't eat processed cheese
Another thing is a journal of when you have headaches. If you have a headache, write down anything upsetting you, the weather, what you ate and drank, what you did if its anything outside the ordinary, the type of lighting you were under, how long you were in front of the computer screen, etc. You will VERY quickly notice a common trigger or triggers.
Its very common to have multiple triggers you can tolerate individually, but combined they result in headaches. Once you see them, you can eliminate some of them and try to reduce others, or only expose yourself to so many in a day.
For me, too much dairy, fluorescent lighting, stress (I always have headaches during the exam period, its just something I have to live with), strong perfumes and colognes, etc. So, the boyfriend ditched the Axe, there's no more fluorescent bulbs in my house (can't avoid at school), I no longer drink milk with meals, just on cereal and with, say, a cookie or a piece of cake, and I'm not shy about asking teachers to move my seat in class if the girl or guy I sit next to likes to bathe in body spray.
For the OP, I would try taking a week (maybe even two!) of just doing what your body feels like doing, and just crash after work. Your horses won't die, your friends won't abandon you, and your boyfriend should be able to suck it up too. Getting out of school after exams is such a RELIEF for me. Don't pressure yourself, just do what you feel like doing. If you're having a really bad day, leave work early. Migraines may not have visible symptoms, but it still is an ILLNESS.
If the break helps, make your friends aware that to balance your health, you will be unavailable X and Y nights a week. Maybe pick up a part boarder or let your trainer use your horses in lessons, if appropriate, or just ride one or two night less. If boyfriend lives with you, tell him if he wants shiny fun girlfriend the rest of the time, he needs to put up with lazy relaxing girlfriend a few nights a week too. If he lives elsewhere, repeat the same message you gave your friends.
I've also had an odd headache for me today, the pain is never in my temples, always my forehead and the base of my head/neck. This is the kind I can knock out with some Aleve and be fine tomorrow morning.
Acupuncture can be a god send for headaches. I've had great results when I go in with or tension/ neck pain headaches. I get frequent headaches from neck issues, but acupuncture works better than anything I've tried before (drugs, chiro, massage)
I was actually just at my doctor's office today. It turns out I actually have a concussion from a fall from my horse, but he thought the headaches part at this stage was from strained/tense neck and shoulder muscles. He stuck needles in and froze the 'joint' on both sides of the base of my skull where it meets my spine and I had instant relief. He said it will be frozen for 6-8 hours then combine that with a nights sleep/relaxation and hopefully it will break the cycle of having those muscles in spasm and causing the tension headches. I thought it sounded worth a try!
He also referred me for massage and went over the importance of having good posture - even if I want to lay down and watch TV I've been told to lay flat on the floor instead of on the couch.
Thanks for the advice, everyone. I haven't done any chiropractic, acupuncture, or massage therapy yet. I think the only thing my insurance covers is acupuncture, and it just seems.... unpleasant to me (I guess I'm a big hypocrite, since my horse gets it!) I'll check this week week on how to access it through my HMO. I did have a bad fall off my horse a month ago, and dislocated my shoulder slightly. I smacked my chin into the ground after my shoulder hit, so I wonder if I knocked something out of alignment.
I am guilty of being stressed out and anxious a lot of the time, for work and personal reasons, but I've been handling the stress pretty well, or so I thought. I'm getting more acclimated to my second job, I'm getting along better with the BF, and I just found someone to lease my horse, which will help with time and finances. I took last weekend really easy too, slept til noon and lounged all day and my headache still stuck around.
I have several known triggers (dehydration, bright lights, stress, sleep deprivation), but I've ruled those out for this headache. In the past my headaches have never lasted more than 2 days, and I'm at 19 days today, so something changed, I just haven't figured it out. I'm kind of wondering if I've crossed into a rebound headache now, as I've been taking a lot of excedrin, ibuprofen, Imitrex, caffeine, etc. My old doctor had me on Topamax to prevent migraines, and it also seemed to reduce my tension headaches, but my current doctor only puts patients on it as a last resort. I might get to that point soon.
I just really want to be functional. I can skip work if I feel really bad, but when a headache lasts so long I have to function in spite of it. I've stopped pretty much all social outings, and riding is not happening (just the thought of putting on my helmet makes my head hurt worse). I miss being a productive human being.
I have been dealing with chronic tension and migraine headaches for over a year now. I was having them daily like you are. I started with a chiropractor who found that I was having TMJ issues (and interestingly enough, I always get at least 3 sinus infections every winter). I then went to my dentist who confirmed the TMJ and I got a night guard. I can't even tell you how much this has helped me! I've forgotten to put it in on a couple occasions and I can definitely feel it the next morning. I am still taking the propranolol, Imitrex if needed and sometimes a half of muscle relaxer before bed if I'm really tense and it has made a huge difference. I now have one headache every week instead of constant every day. I also have not had any sinus infections this year.
It's amazing how debilitating headaches can be. I didn't even realize how much it effected my personality until I got it under control. I also did acupuncture and chiro several times per week, but the night guard is what helped me the most. Good luck!
I sympathize! I've had horrible headaches most of my life, and starting at about 22 would get awful knots in my neck/base of my skull, which would then radiate up and cause horrible, throbbing, nausea inducing headaches. (nothing like trying to finish up a nursing paper at 2 am while wanting vomit in the trash can....!)
Anyway- the past 6 mos, I've had ONE bad headache....and it was just a "normal" take 2 Advil and a 30 minute nap and it's all better headache. I think the fix was my new mattress. We go a Serta gel/foam mattress and man do I love it! No more headaches, no more back pain... It is so awesome.
Last summer I was getting 2+ massages a month, and although they made it better, they didn't last- a week later I'd have headaches again.
I'd strongly recommend massage/chiro but I think if you are sleeping wrong, they really won't "fix" the issue.
I also use the roll on aspercreme- it's a little smelly at first, but pretty minimal one it's dry. When I feel neck tension, I also heat up a hot pack as hot as I can stand, and out it at the base of my skull and sleep on my back. This seems to really loosen stuff up and makes its so I at least am sleep!
Good luck getting to the base of this- not a fun road!
I have chronic migraine and am pregnant, so I've been off Topamax/Namenda for almost a year. I have had a headache constantly since July except two amazing days around Thanksgiving. I feel your pain. I can't fix it, but here are some things I found that help:
1. BenGay rubbed on your forehead and the back of your neck. I know that sounds crazy but honestly this keeps me alive. The burning feeling distracts the headache a little and provides a little relief.
2. Ice packs/heat packs. I use a BedBuddy (basically rice in a sock you microwave), alternated with ice in a Ziploc wrapped in a sock. Helps a little.
3. benadryl. This helps more than Sudafed, I think. take 2 Tylenol and 2 Benadryl at the same time.
4. Flonase daily (got mine from allergist, I have "allergic rhinitis" which aggravates my headaches. Basically I have all the symptoms of allergies without actually being allergic to anything specific.)
5. regular sleep, regular meals, avoid bright lights and stress. If only all those things were actually possible....but I digress. Do the best you can.
I tried massage and acupuncture. Massage made my head worse, acupuncture just didn't do anything. But they do help some people so worth trying.
For preventative, you might ask about a Topamax/Namenda combination if you are not planning to reproduce any time soon (Topamax causes birth defects). It's off-label use of Namenda, which is an anti-Alzheimer's med, but I found that it helps clear up the Topamax fuzzies and helps the headaches a little.
Since you say you struck your chin, I'd definitely get to a chiro for the once over. When my jaw is out of alignment, I am guaranteed a headache. A slight neck adjustment and sometimes skull manipulation puts everything back and the headache fades away.
I also get the ones where you wake up with it and it runs from the left side of my neck up and over to behind my left eyeball. Constant, steady pain - also leaves me nauseated. They are the two-day versions.
I have to make a concoction to combat those because prescription stuff only works if I can catch the headache at the start.
I swallow 2 Aleve to start and then 4 hours later, 2 Bayer Migraine Formula with a Coke. That'll usually take me from a Pain Level 8/9 to a 2 that I can function with. Before bed, 2 more Aleve and a slow/gentle/HOT shower on that side of my head & neck.
My headaches come without rhyme no reason... sometimes hormonal, sometimes weather (big drop in barometric pressure), etc. Have never been able to pinpoint specific triggers. I'll be fine the day/night before and wake up in agony.
<>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- "When they try to tell you these are your Golden years, don't believe 'em.... It's rust."
OP, I feel your pain. for years I have had migraines but as I have aged, they have changed. I believe stress combined with the week before my period and then chocokate on top caused a few!
Now, I get chronic daily headaches, I will wake up anywhere from 3-5am with a migraine and eventually it goes away on its own,
I have been on the injection of Imatrex, but that only lasted a year, Topamax and Cafergot, which is an old med, taken at first sign of migraine. Unfortunately, I had a stroke in 2007 related to taking the Cafergot, a blood clot went thru my vein and since they are small to begin with, I stroked.
I have read of the rebound warnings from the OTC drugs so you may be experiencing that.
a journal would be good - keep track of the weather, as well as stress and maybe the known trigger foods?
Are you a teeth grinder? That can set off headaches for me.
Some guided meditation (app available for iphone!) or yoga before bed and possibly even for a few minutes a couple of times during the day may also help.
If you're an anxious person, you may also find that anxiety can set them off. Again the meditation and or yoga can help, as can exercise.
Originally Posted by young21
[snip] I got a night guard. I can't even tell you how much this has helped me! I've forgotten to put it in on a couple occasions and I can definitely feel it the next morning
I totally forgot about that. My dentist got me a mouth guard for some tooth pain that he thought was tmj, but come to find out I had a dead tooth (possibly caused by tmj/grinding?), and once I got the tooth removed I never wore it. Huh, maybe I should give it a shot. DH says he never hears me grind, per se, but I may be clinching. And my jaw clicks when I open/close AND I've been having L side jaw pain recently...
As for whether or not I'm an anxious person... Heh. Hehehehe. The words "tightly wound" have been used around me.
COTH's official mini-donk enabler
"I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl