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My Battle with a Persistent Tension Headache

Hi,

Thank you for visiting my post. This is my first post on this forum. I figured I would give a lot of background info so that you could get a better idea of where I am coming from.

I began developing a constant tension headache around 5 years ago. It feels like a band is tightly wrapped around my head. The pain is balanced on both sides of my head, mostly around the top and temple areas. I started out getting a headache once every other week or so (if memory serves it would usually occur on Sunday's when I would volunteer at church), then it became once a week, twice a week and before I know it, I simply always had a headache. This progression took maybe a year or two. I would go to sleep with that same headache, and then wake up the next morning with that same headache which would persist throughout the day. I have been living like this for around 4 years now.

I believe the dull pain has inhibited my ability to form and maintain relationships. The pain takes up a chunk of my "head space", of my presence that I can't really contribute much in conversation because the headache makes it hard to think about regular, every day things. It seems that I'm always, to some degree, whether I consciously realize it or not, thinking about the pain, distracted and occasionally frustrated that it exists so therefore unable to every fully engage myself in a conversation, or any human interactions for that matter. Because my tension headaches hover around the 1-3 pain level (out of 10), I am able to live a relatively normal life, such as I'm able to work and go to social events, see friends, though anything social that requires more than a surface level interaction, unless it's with family or close friends, is hindered because good conversation is unnatural while in pain. The headache pain ebbs and flows throughout the day, though it is almost always heightened during anything stressful. Anyways, I always thought that this headache would pass soon enough in the same fashion that it came on, and there are seasons of life where the pain does seem much lower than others, but then the headache picks up again. I am certain that stress makes the headache worse, also the sun/heat can make it worse, irregular sleep, and laying down can make it worse too. As for what lessens the pain, a warm shower, eating flavorful food, something that really stimulates my mind like a good memory or a string of thoughts about something interesting, a self massage of my upper neck (suboccipital muscles). When the headache is getting bad I love a good sneeze because that makes the pain subside for a few seconds.

I have been to the doctor before, had a scan of my brain (no tumors), had a scan of my sinuses (which found a mild chronic inflammation), had physical therapy, and seen a chiropractor once. These all had little to no lasting effect. A few of the remaining untried treatment options offered by my primary doctor were biofeedback therapy or psychotherapy and/or regular medication; I believe it was something similar to anti-depressant pills. I also should note that I eat a healthy diet and am physically active on a daily basis. I do just about everything typically recommended for a healthy, headache-free life. I have tried switching up my diet to find food triggers before. I consume little to no caffeine and little alcohol. For work, I am a grounds keeper which consists of a lot of labor and have considered switching careers to something less physically strenuous, like computer coder, to see if that helps.

I am considering trying psychotherapy and biofeedback therapy to see if there are any thought patterns or behaviors I can change that would help with the headache.

Has anyone else had a persistent tension headache for years, or has anyone found healing for a constant headache that lasted months or years? If anyone could shine a little light on what may help, or has been in a similar situation, or knows someone who has has been in one, and would be willing to share their story, I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you for taking the time to read this long post.

God bless,
Dominick

  1. Hi @headache12345,

    Thank you for reaching out and sharing your journey with us. I'm so sorry to hear you've been in extended pain for so long. I understand what it's like to live with low level head pain, it's exhausting! I began experiencing chronic head and neck and chronic migraine after I fell and sustained a TBI.

    If your primary care doctor hasn't suggested further investigation, for example seeing a neurologist, event though your scans appear normal, it may be time. I would encourage you to seek out a doctor who is an expert who treats migraine and headache disease. Depending on where you live, this may be easy, or a bit difficult as there are just over 550 of these expert doctors in the U.S. Please don't let that deter you, seeing one of these expert doctors can make a huge impact in our care. I'm currently seeing one of these expert doctors with some success. To read how these doctors are different and how to find one here are a few links; https://migraine.com/blog/seeing-a-board-certified-headache-specialist/ and how to find one; https://headaches.org/resources/healthcare-provider-finder/.

    Would it be OK if I asked a few questions? You mentioned this started about five years ago. By any chance was this after an illness, say, cold or virus? There is a headache type called New Daily Persistent Headache which you can read more about here; https://migraine.com/living-migraine/chronic-or-something-else/.

    Something else comes to mind - have you been taking anything every day, or near daily to help relieve this pain? That's totally understandable as no one wants to be in pain every day. The thing is if we take pain relievers and/or migraine medications, whether they are over-the-counter or prescribed, more than two to three days a week, we increase the risk of getting rebound headache. When we are in a rebound cycle we can have daily, unrelenting pain that is very frustrating. Just something to consider if applicable.

    I'm not implying you have either of these conditions, as I'm not a medical professional. rather want to share topics that you can discuss with your doctor.

    Please let me know what you think. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

    I look forward to your update,
    Nancy Harris Bonk, Patient Advocate/Moderator

    1. Thank you so much for your response, Nancy. I'm also so sorry to hear about your chronic head, neck and migraine pain. It's helpful to hear from someone who is going through or has gone through something similar to me. I will be applying for health insurance this November and will inquire about seeing a neurologist and/or a headache specialist.

      As far as I know there wasn't any specific incident, like an illness or head injury, that occurred around the same time the headaches started. Thanks for sharing those links. I'll be sure to check that out.

      When the headaches were first beginning years ago, I would take Excedrin, as that was the only medication I had known to be effective for me as a kid. I did get the occasional bad tension headache as a child, probably more frequently than the average kid. About 4 or 5 years ago, I would take the excedrine every other week as I would get a headache and then every week as the headaches increased in frequency, eventually I believe I was taking the excedrin sometimes two times per week. Eventually I became tolerant and the excedrin stopped working. So I stopped taking it and would only take it on the rare occasion, every few months or so, because it would still help take the edge off a bit.

      I haven't heard many stories of people with a persistent tension headache for years that ended up recovering, though I think I have heard a few stories in various headache forums and on YouTube. Do you still have constant head and neck pain? Is there anything that has helped with your pain? Did you have any chronic head or neck pain prior to your TBI?

  2. Hi @headache12345,

    Thank you for your reply!! I do have continued head, neck and migraine pain. Botox has cut my attack frequency in half - thankfully!!

    I still walk around with level two to three head pain, I'm fairly certain I've adapted to it 🙁.

    I did not have daily head pain pre-TBI. I did experience migraine each month around menses, but like you, that was initially taken care of with over-the-counter medications.

    I've also found Cefaly and Nerivio, two devices helpful. Cefaly can be used preventively and/or to stop an attack, and Nerivio is used to stop attacks. If you can tolerate a few more links, here is information on both; https://migraine.com/?s=cefaly and https://migraine.com/?s=nerivio.

    Will you keep me posted?
    Nancy Harris Bonk, Patient Advocate/Moderator

    1. Hi @headache12345,

      Thank you for your reply!! I do have continued head, neck and migraine pain. Botox has cut my attack frequency in half - thankfully!!

      I still walk around with level two to three head pain, I'm fairly certain I've adapted to it 🙁.

      I did not have daily head pain pre-TBI. I did experience migraine each month around menses, but like you, that was initially taken care of with over-the-counter medications.

      I've also found Cefaly and Nerivio, two devices helpful. Cefaly can be used preventively and/or to stop an attack, and Nerivio is used to stop attacks. If you can tolerate a few more links, here is information on both; https://migraine.com/?s=cefaly and https://migraine.com/?s=nerivio.

      Will you keep me posted?
      Nancy Harris Bonk, Patient Advocate/Moderator

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