Almost every fibromyalgia patient I know suffers from migraine headaches. I’m fortunate to be one of the exceptions. However, I’ve had my share of various other types of headaches. I once had a tension headache that lasted for three weeks.
Recently, I’ve had a particularly painful type of headache called occipital neuralgia. It came on suddenly. I awoke one morning feeling like I’d been branded while I was sleeping. I had a searing pain in the back of my head in a spot the size of a dime. The pain has since migrated down to the bottom of my skull and shoots up to the top of my scalp. It began over a month ago, and it’s been with me ever since.
After a head and neck surgeon — formerly known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist — ruled out a sinus issue as the cause, I’ve been prescribed conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, heat, massage, and acupuncture. The next step would be a trigger point injection into the nerves at the base of the skull, but I’m hopeful the pain will resolve before then.
During the last four painful weeks, I’ve educated myself about this type of headache, hoping to prevent a recurrence. What I’ve learned is that occipital neuralgia is related to myofascial pain syndrome, which is related to fibromyalgia, which seems to be the originator of all of it. Although there is no cure and no way to completely ensure prevention, there are things one can do to reduce the number of occurrences.
One is aerobic exercise. I’ve scoped out the local health clubs, looking for one with a swimming pool warm enough for my comfort. I once was an avid swimmer. It looks like I’m about to become one again. In addition, I’ll be seeing a physical therapist. Although I already do some form of stretching every day, I need to be sure that I’m reaching the muscles involved in my upper back and neck from where this pain is originating. I also need someone to evaluate the way in which I sit and stand. Poor posture can contribute to occipital headaches.
I’ll also be modifying my diet to one suggested for patients with any type of chronic pain. I have to admit that I’ve overindulged my sweet tooth lately. So, I’ll be eating less sugar and adding more protein in order to feel satisfied without it. Regardless of what happens with my occipital neuralgia, at least I’ll have improved my nutritional profile while I’m awaiting a cure.
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