Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Head Pain

Photo by jennaream / BY-NC-SA 2.0

Everybody's head pain is so different. I met people who had pain behind their eye or pain on one side of their neck. I feel my headache in my forehead. When it's really bad, it extends down through my whole head and I feel it at the base of my skull. In addition, I might feel pain in my neck, tightness in my shoulders, soreness in my jaw, and pressure where my sinuses in my face are. I learned through going to MHNI, that jaw pain, stuffed up nose, and pain in the sinuses can be from migraine pain, and that is definitely true in my case. Up until then I thought I had TMJ issues and sinus issues (so much for that $600 mouth guard, huh?). I am now becoming more aware that right before my head pain increases, my nose starts to get stuffed up. Interesting, huh? My headache is a dull ache. When it's not bad, it feels like pressure. When it's bad, it's an intense ache and it feels tight, like someone is squeezing a cloth around the inside of my forehead. When it's really, really bad it feels like that piece of cloth has millions of tiny pins and needles on it.

MHNI had a helpful pain scale, with objective descriptions. Pretty much each time the nurse asked me "what is your head pain level" (the annoying question multiple times a day at the hospital) I had to refer to this scale.

0 = No Pain
1 = Mild Pain
      Low-level pain, which only enters awareness when you think about it.
2 = Moderate Pain
      Pain level that can be ignored at times.
3 = Severe Pain
      Painful all the time but you could do your job.
4 = Very Severe Pain
      Very severe pain that makes thinking difficult but you could perform simple tasks. You could not do your job.
5 = Worse Possible Pain
      Worst pain imaginable; intense and incapacitating. This pain makes you unable to rest, think, or do simple tasks. It is totally controlling.

Before I went in the hospital, my daily pain was at a 3 or 4. Usually it would gradually increase throughout the day so that it was eventually at a 4. It was very hard to do my job at a 4, and I laughed at their description that a 4 means you cannot do your job. I did! But that's not something I wanted to keep up, which is why I ended up hospitalized, seeking an extreme treatment and evaluating what I can change in my life to make coping and living with pain easier. 

I left the hospital with a new baseline headache of 1 and 2. I am on a new preventative regimen to hopefully keep the pain under control as well as abortive medications to take as needed when the pain spikes. Up until this point, I have had no abortive medication that works at all, and not any preventative medication that were significantly effective. I pray that this treatment plan is effective at keeping my pain at a tolerable level so that I can work and function and have a good quality of life. 

For those of you interested, I take .4 mg of methergine 4 times a day, 100 mg of neurontin 2 times a day and 300 mg at night, 10 mg of atarax 3 times a day, and 50 mg of topamax at night as preventative medications. For abortives I have 10 mg of bacolfen, 10 mg of flexeril, and DHE injections. I am only allowed to take the first two abortives 3 times a week, and the DHE 2 times a week. 

I'm not proud of the fact that I'm pushing this many chemicals into my body. I definitely would have liked to of found a treatment that was non-drug based. Believe me, I tried. Right now, this is my reality. My brain is biologically predisposed to migraine and I have a medical condition that makes me non-responsive to traditional treatment for migraine. These drugs are necessary to change my brain chemistry and decrease the pain. I'm praying they work. I'm just thankful God is bigger than migraines, pain, and drugs.

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