The Battle Against Meds
I remember getting occasional headaches as far back as kindergarten, back when a simple, crushed aspirin did the trick. Gradually, the headaches became worse – both in frequency and intensity. By my freshman year of high school, I was checking the “has frequent headaches / migraines” box on school registration forms.
Soon after, I began seeing doctors for headaches and was diagnosed with “tension headaches.” I was being prescribed everything under the sun that had been known to “prevent” and “cure” headaches. Nothing seemed to do the trick, so I self-medicated.
With no regard to my liver, I began taking OTC pain relievers on a daily basis (mostly Excedrin). When headaches got particularly bad, I took a prescription Imitrex (or Treximet, I can’t remember). On top of this, by my senior year, I was scheduling my day around my trips to the vending machine for a bottle of Mt. Dew. Waking up with headaches every day, my daily breakfasts consisted of a dosage of Excedrin Tension Headache washed down by a swig of Mt. Dew, maybe followed by a donut from the gas station on my way to school (and I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling well. duh).
By my freshman year of college, Excedrin was no longer doing the trick, and I couldn’t afford (physically and financially) to keeping taking so much Imitrex. I knew I had to be making some changes, and after a little research, learned that a fix to my poor diet may be part of the solution.
After cutting my high caffeine intake cold-turkey and living through the worst three day migraine of my life, I went back to the doctor for preventative medications and received Topamax (later to become my worst enemy).
For a couple years, I did okay. Everything seemed to be going well enough. Then, when I transferred schools, things started acting up again. I restarted the battle with Excedrin, and saw my Imitrex counts rise again. Finally, after my first senior year, I saw a neurologist.
The neurologist helped with nothing. He put me on a higher dosage of Topamax and gave me cortisone shots (aka occipital nerve blockers) in the back of my skull and neck in an attempt to relieve the tension. Soon after, my periods became incredibly irregular, my hair started falling out, and the headaches seemed to be getting worse. Now what?? Ignoring what the neurologist recommended, I cut the Topamax and continued to see a chiropractor. I haven’t seen the inside of a neurology clinic since.
It was that chiropractor who seemed to be doing me the most good. After transferring schools, it’d been a year or so before I settled down and realized I should start seeing a chiro again. Not only did she adjust my spine, she worked hard to ensure I was eating well and staying as stress-free as possible – key elements to staying happy and healthy.
For a while, I was feeling pretty good – despite my complaints of jaw pain. It was my mother who suggested I ask my dentist for ideas. At a routine cleaning, I told my dentist of my jaw issues, and he referred me to another local dentist who specialized in TMJ problems. I learned that not only was I grinding my teeth on a nightly basis, but my bite was also misaligned. This was causing my jaw to overwork itself, and jaw problems can lead to headaches.
So – I’ve been spending the past few months sleeping with a splint at night and having my TMJ dentist polish my teeth to get a proper alignment. My jaw and cheeks don’t get sore nearly as much as they used to, but every couple weeks or so I have a flare-up. I rarely find my jaw sore after talking or smiling anymore, and I don’t seem to be getting nearly as many random, middle of the day headaches as I used to.
I’ve just moved, so I’m between chiropractors, and I do feel like this is already taking its toll. But I still moderate my caffeine intake, and I think I can honestly say that I feel the healthiest I’ve felt in years.
I still fight the battle with Excedrin some (many) mornings, but it is an uphill struggle. I know I can do get past this, but I refuse to do what I did last time. I’ll find a healthier way, I’m sure.