Tension Headaches: A Bit Further Down the Road

Holidays are normally a time when I’m normally guaranteed to be free of headaches and after nearly two weeks away from work I thought that this years summer break would be the same. That is until I decided to go swimming in the sea at Banburgh on the Thursday afternoon after a beautiful day on Lindisfarne.

LindisfarneNo sooner had I entered the water than a pain shot up my neck, exploding at the base of my scull and spreading across the entirety of the back of my head. I knew things were not going to be pleasant because I was on holiday and I hadn’t brought any pain killers with me on the day out, there were some back at the holiday cottage but that was 20 minutes drive away.

I can normally recognise the symptoms that are likely to result in a really bad headache so take anti-inflammatory mediation nice and early and avoid a real headache developing.

It’s hard to describe what happens when I don’t take timely medication. The nearest to a good description is to say that my body goes into shock – I sweat, my heart races, I can’t sit still, sometimes I’m sick, the strangest symptom is that I get a streaming nose and the pain just builds and builds. At these times I would quite happily chop my head off and give it to someone else to look after.

While what happened on holiday was unusual, what followed was even more so. Two nights later the same thing happened all over again, and then again another couple of nights after that. On both of these occasions even the normal dosage of medication didn’t make any difference. On one night I spent 4 hours pacing the floor until eventually I managed to get myself into a fitful sleep and some level of relief.

After the third occasion the pain never really stopped – it was just numbed by the medication.

A few weeks prior to the holidays I had finished a dose of a nightly muscle relaxant (as described in my last post). These had helped but, I’d also experienced some of the side effects of this particular treatment, the main one being an increase in weight that I’m still struggling to shift. So I hadn’t been back to the doctor’s to see about the next steps – I was busy and figured that I’d be fine on holiday. The next step could wait for my return.

Having not been fine on holiday I went back to the doctors and started on a new course of a different muscle relaxant. These hadn’t had chance to build up their effect prior to the third episode, so I went back to the doctor’s again, this time for a strong anti-inflammatory too.

Just to be doubly sure as to the reason for the headaches I’ve also been for an x-ray on my neck.

So where does all that leave me. I’m currently taking anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant treatments which are both combining to make things a lot better. The results from the x-ray will be through in a few days. Once the x-ray results are in I’ll be back at the doctor’s to talk about the next steps. I’ve also been trying to look after my shoulders and back doing the frequent stretches and exercise.

These headaches have been the worst that I think I have ever experienced, and certainly the most frequent. I don’t think I’ve ever had to take time off work because of these headaches, but I did this time. If I’m honest – I was scared. I’m not scared now, but I am determined to find a more sustainable answer.

Since I posted last time I’ve been amazed by the number of people who have told me about similar symptoms and experiences. Hopefully sharing a bit more will help a few more too.

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