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Archive for the ‘headache’ Category

Under Pressure

We kept it fairly under the radar, but I had an appointment with a neurologist here in town a few weeks ago.  Throughout the summer I’ve had a smattering of headaches and some point tenderness at my surgical site.  My OB thought it warranted a trip to the neuro just to make sure there was nothing going on with the Chiari.

Thankfully, the neurologist doesn’t believe for an instance that it’s Chiari related.  Instead he believes they are probably pregnancy induced and exacerbated by not being able to take any typical migraine meds for them.  He started me on magnesium and riboflavin supplements as a preventative measure to see if it was deficiency related.

The supplements haven’t seemed to make much difference but it’s become increasingly apparent to us that these headaches are weather related.  I had suspicions early on that was the case.  After 2 horrible headaches in the last week, on days with almost identical weather patterns, my suspicions are pretty well confirmed.

It seems as though I get headaches when we have a change in weather blow through.  Especially when we have high winds bringing in a storm front.  My guess is that it’s the change in barometric pressure that is triggering the pain.

Perhaps they’d be easily managed with my normal meds, but for now I’m trying to combat them with fluids, tylenol, sudafed and a pain pill (per the approval of both my OB and neurologist) when they get bad.  Hopefully fall will make its final appearance soon and these weather changes will stabilize.

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Cause and Effect

I measure the quality of a day based upon the pain I’m in and what I can do to relieve it.  Good days are days where I can take just ibuprofen or excedrin migraine and feel alright.  Bad days are days where I have to take my heavy duty meds (my migraine ones) and chase it with narcotics and sleep.

The problem with good days is that I find myself doing way more than I should.  When I feel good I push my limits and try to get as much done as possible.  I know that it’s me taking advantage of feeling good; trying to get caught up on all the things that have been pushed aside on the bad days.  Coupled with those neglected household chores is the “to-do” list I’ve written as pre-surgery tasks.  Which means plenty of thing to occupy my time with when I have a good day.

The downside is that after I have a good Chiari day and push my limits, I wake up the next day feeling horrible.  Sometimes it is immediately a “bad” day; sometimes it is a moderate day that progresses to bad.

Then the cycle perpetuates.

I know that I need to set limits for myself and not overdo it.  I’m just not following through on that very well.

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More Opinions

(Opinion #2)

Last week, Thursday I met with the neurosurgeon here in Idaho Falls.  At first he was very friendly, easy going and seemed genuinely concerned about my case.  About 5 minutes into the consultation my appointment with Dr. Schmidt at the University of Utah was brought up and his demeanor completely changed.  I had hoped he would be more open to the idea that I had sought a second opinion but it seemed as if he was offended that HE was the second opinion.  Due to scheduling, it just worked out that I didn’t get into him first.

The appointment with Dr. Greenwald didn’t set well with me at all.  He focused solely on the headaches and blew off all of the other symptoms.  Even the lack of spinal fluid flow to the back of my brain.  His recommendation was to see a neurologist and do a complete work-up on my headaches and try to find both a preventative medication and a rescue medication that worked more efficiently.  After all, they were “just migraines”.

I was upset that he didn’t seem concerned about the other symptoms.  Dizziness, blackouts, visual disturbances, etc. seem to be pretty important symptoms to just glance over.  At least in my opinion.  But I was somewhat concerned that I had tunnel vision in regards to surgery and perhaps I should listen to his advice and meet with a neurologist.

(Opinion #3)

Fortunately, the neurologist’s office had a cancellation yesterday and called me Monday afternoon to see if I could take the appointment.  I took it with some hesitation and debated canceling it to save myself the trip across town.  I’m glad I opted to keep the appointment though, because Dr. Garland reaffirmed the need for surgery and validated that my other symptoms shouldn’t be overlooked.  Much of his concern centered around the occurrence of blackouts that has recently developed.  His opinion was that new symptoms like that were progression of the Chiari and a direct result of the compromised spinal fluid flow.  He felt like I might have a history of migraines but the constant headaches now are certainly Chiari related and need to be addressed through decompression surgery.  In his opinion, it would be ridiculous to do a work up before surgery–a waste of both his and my time.  His hope was that my headaches would be completely resolved post decompression, but if not to contact his office in 6-8 months (to give myself sufficient time for recovery) and we’d discuss options and possibly a different course of treatment for them, then.

So 2 out of 3 doctors recommend surgery.  I feel better knowing that more than one professional feels strongly about the condition and needing to treat it.  There are still fears but no questioning the decision to schedule the decompression.

Onward we continue to march…

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I started getting migraines in 5th or 6th grade.  That equates to a little more than 20 years of experience with them.  There were periods of time where I was having 3-4 a week.  But there were other periods of time where I went months without one.  There never seemed to be rhyme nor reason to their occurrence.  I just learned to function as well as I possibly could and tried to not let the pain stop me from doing things.

After I had Kate I had a fantastic break from them.  I’d get what I’d call “minor” headaches here and there but they were easily curbed by some Excedrin and a cup of coffee.

About 6 months ago they picked up in frequency again.  I just chalked them up to stress.  Work was busy and the threat of unemployment was looming.  For the first time in a long time I started refilling my Maxalt prescription every 4-6 weeks (there are 6 pills in every refill).  I noticed that I was taking either Excedrin, Tylenol or ibuprofen almost every day for the headaches and general aches and pains.

Early in June, I woke on a Sunday morning to the worst headache I have ever had.  At one point we counted I had thrown up 15 times in an hour.  Every single movement I made, every turn of my head brought on pain so badly it triggered an episode of vomiting.  Cris finally convinced me to go to Urgent Care to get injectable meds as nothing I was taking orally had any chance of being effective.  Even then, it wasn’t an instant cure.  Pain meds (i.e. narcotics) have never been fully effective for my headaches.  They only help to dull the pain and allow me to sleep.

Since then, I’ve been having them more and more frequently.  Bad ones, like the one I talked about in Pain, Pain, Go Away;  that’s a typical migraine headache for me.  I ran through my last script of 6 pills in 18 days.

The part that is hard though, is that for the past month I’ve woken up with a headache every single day.  Most days they start off as just a nagging, slightly annoying pain.  (Although Cris says that after this many years, my definition of “slightly annoying pain” may differ drastically from people that don’t deal with chronic pain.)  As the day goes on the pain intensifies.  Many days I opt to lay down for a half hour or so when Cris gets home as this provides a little relief.

Right now I’m averaging 1-2 days a week where the headaches are making me throw up upon waking and another 1-2 days where it progresses almost to that severity by early evening.  There hasn’t been a single day where the pain went away.

Another concern is that the symptoms that go with the headaches are now occurring when the pain isn’t as bad.  My nagging headaches now go hand in hand with dizziness, nausea (no vomiting) and trouble with my vision.

Perhaps I’m over-analyzing every symptom right now.  Maybe I’m just more aware of what’s going on and how these little things could be related to the Chiari malformation.

Or maybe I’m allowing myself to admit that there is something wrong and I don’t have to brush aside all of these random symptoms that seem to have no explanation.

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Pain, Pain, Go Away

Shortly after 6 o’clock this morning the voice of the radio personality infiltrated my slumber.  As I rolled to my right to groggily hit the snooze button I winced and cursed softly.

Mentally preparing for what was coming, I hoisted myself out of bed and into a standing position.  I wasn’t even fully upright when the blackness crept in.  Even in the dim morning light I could sense the dizziness and near-fainting episode that was starting.  I leaned against the side of the bed and took a couple of deep breaths, waiting for it to pass.

A few seconds later my vision had cleared and I unsteadily made my way to the bathroom.  Each step made the pain in my head worsen.  Each step made me wince.  I hoped to make it the 8-10 steps to the bathroom before throwing up.

My feet felt the coolness of the floor in the bathroom.  I debated which to tackle first — medicine or toilet — knowing that both would cause another near-fainting episode.  Toilet won out.  I tried to heave as quietly as possible to not wake Cris any earlier than necessary.  As I stood I grabbed the bathroom counter to steady myself against the dizziness/blackness.  I fished through my drawer in the sink vanity (which IS babyproofed) for my medium-strength headache relief.  It’s sad that I can find the bottle in the drawer, open it, shake out 2 pills and get myself a glass of water in the dark.  With a brief break upon standing upright once again.

Back in bed, I felt a little relief from the pain.  It still felt as though someone had the base of my skull in a vice and was shoving pieces of steel rebar into my neck and pulling them out my eye sockets.

Closing my eyes, I silently hoped that Kate would choose today to sleep in later than normal.

Unfortunately she woke an hour earlier than normal and when I rolled over to climb out of bed my 6am performance repeated itself.  Except for the crawling back into bed part, much to my disappointment.

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There are days that I rely too heavily on the security of my house.  It’s easier to stay inside with the curtains drawn, in comfy clothes instead of showering, getting dressed and braving the heat and sunlight.  When I sit at home though it allows me to focus on the aches and pains, the nagging pain that originates in the back of my head.  Getting out of the house helps me to push it aside (sometimes) and focus on other things.

Too much lately I’ve been hiding in my house.  I knew that it would do good for both Kate and I to get out today.  After lunch we suited up and headed to the aquatic center in town.

We spent close to 90 minutes in the water this afternoon.  Splashing, laughing and playing.  With each trip Kate is overcoming more fears and becoming braver.  We spent a good portion of our time in the regular section of the pool where the water is about 4 feet deep.  Kate loved to sit on the side of the pool and splash, allowing me to tread water next to her or I’d carry her around bouncing, going underwater and letting her “float”.  When in the water I felt good.  Better than I can remember in a while.  My headache disappeared, my vision was clear and the pain in my neck/back was nonexistent.  I left the aquatic center feeling refreshed and energized.

Less than 15 minutes later I pulled into our subdivision.  As I reached into the backseat to get Kate unbuckled, I felt the familar pressure in the back of my head and caught glimpses of black floaters in my vision.

Although fleeting, it was nice to have some time where I felt normal.

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