Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Day 92 - Fibromyalgia

"FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome) is a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. Fibromyalgia means pain in the fibrous tissues in the body.
The pain comes from the connective tissues, such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. FMS does not involve the joints, as does rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Most patients with fibromyalgia say that they ache all over. Their muscles may feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Sometimes the muscles twitch and at other times they burn. More women than men are afflicted with fibromyalgia, but it shows up in people of all ages.

Musculoskeletal pain and fatigue experienced by fibromyalgia syndrome patients is a chronic problem, which tends to have a waxing and waning intensity. There is currently no generally accepted cure for this condition. According to recent research, most patients can expect to have this problem lifelong.

Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome do not become crippled with the condition, nor is there any evidence it affects the duration of their expected life span. Nevertheless, due to varying levels of pain and fatigue, there is an inevitable contraction of social, vocational activities which leads to a reduced quality of life."*


I went to see the osteopath again today for my second session. He is also a psychotherapist.

He asked if there had been improvement after our first session and I told him unfortunately nothing had changed.

I explained my mother suffered from terrible migraines and also had fibromyalgia.

He explained that, from a psychological point of view, there is a possibility that I may be trying to alleviate my mother’s pain thereby inflicting it on myself.

He then told me that my headache may be the first symptom of fibromyalgia.

The possibility of having fibromyalgia sounds fatuous but it is nonetheless plausible. I do not suffer from the symptoms of the illness (I ‘only’ have a constant headache), and most people do not get it until they are older anyway.

I am nonetheless very upset and terrified about possibly having it. Having lived with a fibromyalgia sufferer - my mother -, I dread to think of what my life will become should I be inflicted with this illness.

I left the clinic feeling dejected, wretched and, all in all, very depressed.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Day 88 - Trapped Nerve

"Neurology is a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, and all effector tissue, such as muscle.
Nerve Pain (Neuralgia, Neuropathy, Neuritis), is a type of pain which originates from the peripheral and/or central nervous system. The source of the pain is commonly due to the nerve being trapped, compressed, or pinched, and less commonly due to some other disease process affecting the nerve.

The term "trapped nerve" refers to a condition in which a nerve is compressed or pinched. This causes pain, numbness, weakness or other symptoms. There are many sites and causes of nerve compression, including:

* A disc in the back or neck — Spinal discs can bulge or tear, pressing on nerves as they travel to and from the spinal cord; sciatica is a common example of a "trapped nerve" that may be due to disc disease.

* Arthritis in the wrist — The median nerve travels through the carpal tunnel, a tight space in the wrist that is easily compressed by swelling in the joint.
* Enlarged tissues — Growth of a lymph node, an abscess (an infection) or a tumor can compress a nearby nerve.
* Injury - A nerve can be compressed by swelling, fracture, or bleeding following trauma; simply leaning on your elbows can compress the ulnar nerve that travels just under the skin."*


A tall, slight, well-disposed man greeted me with an amicable smile. I took an immediate liking to the neurologist, and felt at ease when recounting what I have been through with my headache.

He attentively listened and asked me to lie on the bed.

I confided my (what may sound ridiculous) fear of possibly having a brain tumour.

He told me it is highly unlikely that my headache is due to a brain tumour, given my young age (I am only 24). He also explained that the first signs of having a brain tumour are - interestingly - not headaches, rather loss of coordination and confusion.

He carried out the usual routine examination. Everything was normal.

In the past few days my back and neck have been stiff and sore, and the doctor appeared to be sure it must be a trapped nerve.

I explained that I am currently seeing an osteopath; he enthusiastically supported this, and encouraged me to carry on with more sessions.

He also suggested soaking in a hot bath every evening, and recommended wearing hot patches on my neck.

Although the neurologist is virtually sure nothing will show up, he booked me in for an MRI scan, for peace of mind.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Day 86 - Headache Specialist

"There are several different types of headache. The main types are:

* Tension headaches (also called stress headaches, muscular headaches) - a mild to moderate headache that may last minutes or days and tends to recur. The pain is fairly constant and felt in both sides of the head and neck as a pressure or tension. Most importantly, exercise doesn't make it worse and there are no additional symptoms such as nausea.

* Migraine (see
Day 4 - Migraine post.) - symptoms can be variable, and there are several different types of migraine , but this is usually a moderate to severe one-sided headache that pulsates or throbs. Importantly, it gets worse with activity and there are additional symptoms, particularly nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and an increased sensitivity to noise, light or smells. Some people experience an aura (symptoms such as flashing lights) before the headache.

* Cluster headaches - frequent, short-lived (less than an hour), one-sided headaches across the temple or around the eye and occurring once or more a day, and often disrupting sleep. Headaches recur for several weeks then subside, although another cluster may develop months later.

* Chronic daily headaches - these may be of any of the above types, and occur for at least 15 days a month for at least three months.

Headaches are generally divided into either primary (not related to another disorder) or secondary (caused by other things such as head injuries, high blood pressure or a brain tumour). With secondary headaches, it's essential to treat the underlying cause as this may prove fatal."*


This afternoon I went to see one of the best neurologists in the UK, who has been ‘a full time headache specialist for the last 12 years’, according to his website.

I described my headache to him in depth, emphasizing that I have already ruled out the possibility of the pain being related to my eyes, my sinuses, tropical diseases, low blood pressure, etc. etc.

As I recounted all the details, the doctor took notes, and explained that at the end of the session he would write a complete description of my symptoms, thereafter sending a copy to myself and to my GP with details of what medication I should take.

The doctor asked me where the pain is centred. I pointed to a specific location on my right temple. What I found very bizarre was that he did not reach out to touch the part of my head which is causing the pain. He immediately jotted down ‘right side temple headache’.

He advised taking steroid or botox injections to alleviate the symptoms.

“Botox?” I asked inquisitively. “But that’s for women who have plastic surgery”, I said. He explained that recent studies in the U.S. have demonstrated that women who suffer from headaches and who have undergone plastic surgery are no longer afflicted with headaches post surgery. As such, doctors now prescribe botox for headaches and migraines.

He thereafter told me that I will always have to carry drugs on me and take them whenever I feel the headache coming on (I guess I didn’t make myself clear when I explained that the headache doesn’t ‘come on’ - it is always there).

Needless to say, I will not be taking neither botox, nor steroids. As I believe I have a secondary headache, I need to find the underlying cause of the pain as opposed to temporarily concealing it with harmful drugs.

Once again, I am back at square one, this time £160 shorter.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Day 85 - Osteopathy

"Osteopathy recognises the importance of the link between the structure of the human body and the way it functions. Osteopaths focus on the body’s skeleton and joint function along with the underlying muscles, soft tissue and internal organs.

Osteopaths consider each person as an individual. Utilising a highly developed sense of touch, they identify problem areas of the body. Using gentle stretching and mobilising techniques as well as manipulating joints, an osteopath works with the body to create the perfect conditions to facilitate the healing process.

Treatment usually consists of a combination of soft-tissue releasing techniques, and some specific adjustments affecting joints and soft-tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments).

Osteopathic treatment restores blood circulation, relaxing tight muscles and easing joint function, leaving you feeling less restricted and more comfortable."*


I am now back in London and very much hope to be able to solve my headache in the near future so as to resume work as soon as possible.

Lately I have thought about the possibility of having a trapped nerve.

I went to see an osteopath this morning who was recommended to me by a close friend. His step father had seen the very same osteopath who had worked wonders on him.

The osteopath in question specialised in cranial osteopathy and worked on my head, shoulder and facial muscles. He moved my muscles and joints using a number of diverse techniques including stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

After the treatment, I felt light headed, dizzy and somewhat tearful. The osteopath explained that given all the work he had done on my body, these feelings were normal.

He asked me to return next week for the second treatment. In the meantime, he told me to try and relax and enjoy myself as much as possible as he believes this will very much contribute to ameliorating my headache.