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Need one-sided headache help

Hoping someone on here might be able to help...

Since I was about 14 (I am now 27) I have been getting headaches. The first started with puberty and were related to my period and then eventually evolved into more migraine-like in nature. I was diagnosed with migraines in high school and trialed various different daily medications, but had too much trouble with the side effects. The migraines/headaches seemed to level out in college, but around the age of 21 they returned and while less migraine-like in nature, still were occurring on a very regular basis so I was started on Topimax. Yet again, the side effects were too much and I was taken off and started on a regimen of Excedrin and/or Fioricet as needed. The headaches seemed to continue, but eventually I just learned to live with them. My symptoms at that time were headaches that would start suddenly, usually without nausea or light-sensitivity and I could manage with Excedrin for mild to moderate headaches and I'd take Fioricet for more severe episodes.

Over the last 2 years I have found that the headaches have increased in their frequency and duration. They are coming on more often and taking sometimes days to go away. I was to the point where I was having to take either Fioricet or usually Tylenol around the clock for 1-3 days at a time. The headaches have also changed to be only one-sided (always right) and are almost always accompanied by a dull-aching neck pain on the right-side that travels up the back of my neck into my right temple and behind my right eye. At their worst, my right inner eye also hurts and I have shooting, electric like pains just above my right ear.

I went to my neurologist (same one since age 14) and he basically shrugged it off and said other than daily medications, there is nothing they can do. I had a repeat MRI and all was normal. I did some research and realized I may be making matters worse with all my medicating and cut myself off cold turkey from the Tylenol and Fioricet. This worked for about a month (1 headache in 4 weeks versus 1-2 every few days), however I'm now at the 6-week mark of no medications and the headaches are back in full swing. I've had three this week alone.

I have tried the chiropractor for adjustments several times a week with no relief. I have tried acupuncture with no relief. I checked in with my orthopedist to ensure that I had nothing going on with my neck to be causing the right-sided neck involvement and had a normal MRI/MRA of my neck. I also went for a second opinion with a new neurologist who also told me it's daily meds or bust.

I have tried keeping a food journal and the only thing that I can definitely attribute to my symptoms is alcohol intake, which I have completely stopped several months ago (I was a social, few drinks on the weekend drinker to begin with).

I am hoping someone may share my symptoms and be able to offer some insight because both eastern and western medicine are failing me and after 13+ years of headaches, I'm at my wits end!

Thank you!

  1. Hi Amanda!

    So sorry you're going through this. I think it's time you went to a headache specialist. Obviously no one online can diagnose you. Only a doctor can do that. But you're describing a lot of classic migraine symptoms that it's possible a headache specialist could help you manage so you're in a lot less pain. Your neurologist is probably great, but they have to treat a variety of neurological diseases, and so they may not have the depth of knowledge to get anyone with migraine/headache symptoms feeling better if they don't respond to kind of first line treatments. (I know my first neurologist tried a few things and then very kindly handed me off to a headache specialist. She was very honest about the fact that my case was too complicated and I needed someone who only specialised in headache.)

    You were smart to go off the painkillers. Medication overuse headache is a danger for anyone with a headache disorder. There are different recommendations out there, so check with your doctor, but 2 times a week, 3 in an emergency is a number that is floated around a lot. Even using just that number, I still developed MOH, and now triptans just won't work for me.

    If you're having 3 headaches a week (usually 4 a month is the minimum) it's probably time to talk about preventative medications with your doctor, especially if a second neuro has agreed with your first on that conclusion. I know it's a not a fun idea to think about. No one liked side effects. But there are literally HUNDREDS of medications out there, and even if Topomax didn't work for you, you may be able to find a drug, or combination of drugs that will. It's also important to give drugs a full three months to see if they will work, and side effects will subside. Cutting down on the number of headaches that start in the first place will help your brain to calm down and get you out of that cycle of establishing a pattern of overreacting to stimuli and pain over and over again. My neuro always tells me whatever I did the week before affects how my brain will respond this week. If I had a bad headache filled week, my brain will be extra tender. If I felt good, my brain will be strong. It's important to calm that cycle. There's also Botox, which for me has no side effects after a sore head on the first day. Nerve blocks didn't work for me, but work for lots of people. CGRP is coming in a year or so. There's LOTS out there to try.

    With diet, keeping a food journal is good... have you tried an elimination diet? If you're having three headaches a week, it might be worth it to cut out all foods that are potential migraine triggers for a few weeks and see if that changes anything. MSG is everywhere.

    If you're light sensitive, also check out your light bulbs to see what type you have. A less irritating bulb can help.

    Sorry if this is information overkill.

    1. @gardensatnight thank you very much! I have made an appointment with a headache specialist and I'm hoping to get some relief soon!

    2. Really great information

  2. Amanda, that's awesome! I hope they can help you start to get some better days. Be sure to let us know how things go. Sometimes finding a treatment plan that works is a bit of a process and I know this site has been invaluable to me in coming up with ideas.

    1. Amanda,

      I have the same issues - always right side pain! MRIs have always been normal. Tried Massage, steroid shots in my neck, countless ER trips - you name it! Basically, I’ve been told take Imitrex for breakthrough pain and Topomax daily (which I absolutely HATE! Makes my feet/hands go numb). Please share your thoughts on how the headache specialist appointment went. I’d love to hear!

      Hope you find some relief soon. Hugs.


      1. I went to the doctor yesterday for a NEW left-sided headache. You see, I've been diagnosed with migraines with sensory auras, but I've had them under control with a keto diet for a year. I went ketogenic because I could not function with Topamax. Topamax controlled the pain, but it increased my confusion/out of focus symptoms.

        Then in this past August, I got new headaches with new symptoms:
        - left eye droops
        - feels like someone is sticking the eraser-end of a pencil in my left ear, and sometimes my right ear too
        - I'm REALLY sensitive to light in my left eye
        - Certain noises can send the pain up the scale, and I can "feel" the noise in my left sinuses
        - I feel pain in my neck, but only the left side. This is where the pain radiates from.
        - the headache feels like it's always there, but it's not intense all of the time, like I can't get rid of it.
        - Aleve doesn't "kill" the pain like it used to
        - My sensory aura in my RIGHT arm does not coincide with these new pains
        - My left eye tears up, especially when I see bright light.
        - Sometimes my nose drips

        Since I have sinus pains, I thought it was some allergy, but I showed my migraine specialist my list and he said "hemicrania continua."

        Does anyone else have hemicrania continua? I'm looking through websites and it says it's NOT a migraine at all. It's a primary headache, which means it's not caused by anything. It just is. And, I still have my chronic migraines to worry about. The pain from this hemicrania continua usually triggers my anxiety and BOOM. Migraine on the right side!

        Is there anything I need to know about my hemicrania continua?

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