- CASE FILE
Daily tension headaches for 20 years
ABOUT THIS CASE FILE
About 20 years ago, I started getting tension headaches multiple times a day. Excedrin seems to be the only medicine that helps. I have spent thousands of dollars on multiple doctors, each seeming confident that they can fix them, only to have the treatments run their course without any significant improvements. Most of the treatments I've tried are not covered by insurance. Here is what I've tried so far:
- I noticed teeth clenching in my sleep, even during times of little to no stress. I got an NTI bite guard from my dentist but it didn't help.
- Got my tonsils removed.
- Tried chiropractor visits.
- I had occasional mucus buildup in my throat (especially in the mornings). Tried allergy shots but after a year or so with no improvement the doctor had me discontinue them.
- Physical therapy from a highly recommended physical therapist who deals with TMJ/Headaches:
- Tried stretching muscles in my face, neck and shoulders.
- Tried electric therapy.
- Tried cold laser treatment. This relieved some of the pain for a few days before it returned.
- The physical therapy helped some of the pain subside, but didn't get me any closer to finding a root cause.
- Tried a sleep apnea / TMJ center:
- An X-ray showed some bone growth on my right jaw bone from years of clenching.
- Tried Botox injections in my temples / jaw. No impact.
- Went through sleep apnea testing. Results were negative.
- Started seeing a neurologist. He got me down from taking 2 Excedrin 3X per day to taking one Excedrin 3X per day.
- I tried cutting down to one Excedrin per day, or even 2 Excedrin per day, but the headaches were bad enough that I wasn't able to function very well. For example, I couldn't focus on my work and found myself being very unproductive.
- Tried every combination of Acetaminophen, Aspirin and Caffeine. Only taking all three together (ie Excedrin) relieved the pain. Even with Excedrin, the headaches come back like clockwork every 4 hours.
- My neurologist had me try Immitrex. It put me in a deep fog and made me so tired that the effects were way worse than headaches. While on Immitrex, my headaches continued.
- Back to a different TMJ / Sleep Apnea treatment center:
- Got day and night guards to bring my bite into alignment. My bite was set back and to the left. Once my bite was aligned, this took away the pain in my jaws and from my jaw to the lower part of my temple area, but the headaches continued.
- Got a CT scan that didn't reveal any problems.
- Got a brain MRI that didn't reveal any problems.
- Went to a spinal care center to work on overall body alignment
- Each visit revealed muscle tension at the base of my neck. Treatments / stretching didn't make it go away or relieve the pain.
- Went to an Upper Cervical center for atlas correction.
- In the weeks after the correction, I stood up straighter and had much less pain in my shoulders and back. I was surprised to see that I measured 2 inches taller than prior to the treatment. However, the headaches didn't improve.
- Wore a neck brace for several months. Did daily stretches designed to keep pressure off of my spinal cord.
- Although the treatment helped me feel temporarily better overall, the daily headaches were as bad as they had ever been. At $300 per visit with no help from insurance and no headache relief, I stopped going.
- Tried acupuncture and cupping. They didn't help at all.
- Tried cutting dairy out of my diet for 6 weeks. No improvement.
- Tried cutting gluten out of my diet for 6 weeks. No improvement.
- Tried massage. No improvement.
When my headaches start coming on, I often have temporary memory issues like forgetting the names of friends, etc. I also temporarily lose coordination and start dropping keys, etc.
I also have frequent constipation issues that I treat with laxatives, but I'm not sure if this is related. My headaches are more intense when constipated.
Running out of ideas... I have accepted the idea that I will likely have headaches every day for the rest of my life, but I wish that wasn't my reality. I'm hoping that medical advances or genetic research will someday allow me to live life without headaches.