Does pain cause ... pain?
Last updated: May 2023
I have posted here before but I'll start at the beginning for some context. I was always a kid with headaches. Sure when I was young they weren't that bad or that frequent but I certainly have memories of having headaches and not even really understanding what was happening. In my early teens they got worse, much more painful but still intermittent. Then as time went on they became chronic. Every day for 15 years I had a migraine without proper medical assistance, diagnosis or any attempt at treatment from a medical professional despite my begging and persistence.
A couple of years ago I found a neurologist who turned my life around. After persistent care and trailing 14 medications I was started on Periactin for prevention and an ergot and before I even went back to the Dr to tell him of the success, I had tapered off my pain medications. I used pain medications and the ergot maybe 3 times a week and went from feeling like a sick person to a person that had manageable intermittent migraines. It was a real life changing experience for me.
Then after about 6 months something started to change. I started getting severe nerve pain in my arms and my left leg. It became more and more painful and more and more frequent. I started to use my pain meds more often and I started to get rebound again (I can so tell the difference between rebound and migraine). Again my head hurt every day. Maybe not a migraine every day but head pain every day of which about half were migraines.
This year I have spent close to $10k on Drs and tests to work out what was wrong (I'm in Australia with a public health care system so that's a lot of appointments and tests). Nothing, complete dismissal of my experience and my symptoms.
Then I finally found a pain specialist that was able to diagnose me. I have two significant nerve entrapments which we can work on. Another which isn't quite bad enough.
So I asked him, how can I have two or three of these? Sounds a bit stupid or like I'm making it up. And his answer was, you've had a migraine for 20 years. You're body has learnt to be in pain.
So I did a bit of reading. Turns out there is a whole bunch of research going on in this area. Whether is central sensitisation, or some other weird nerve thing they don't fully understand yet ... my nervous system has taken a hike from reality.
So my message is ... get proper treatment. Don't live every day in pain. We all know that migraine increases your risk of some end of life illnesses but it's looking like pain can increase your risk of ... pain.
I always wonder, if I had had proper treatment when I was a kid would my head, both arms and leg hurt every day? This ain't small change either. I'm loosing sensation in my fingers, I can't get to sleep, my body literally shakes from the severity of the nerve pain and my strength is diminishing in my right hand.
Remember to give yourself what you know you need and that includes the courage of your own convictions. Don't let a Dr dismiss you, chuck you a script without investigation and diagnosis. Trust in your experience of your own body and act from a place of knowing what is and isn't ok for you. Maybe no one else believes you but you have to believe yourself (sorry for the aspirational undertones).
Take care, be safe (but have lots and lots of fun too) and know that what you live with and what you experience matters. xo
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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