Sunday 1 June 2014

Day 1990 - Chiropractic

"According to the General Chiropractic Council, chiropractic is "a health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health". 

Chiropractors (practitioners of chiropractic) use their hands to treat disorders of the bones, muscles and joints. Treatments that involve use of the hands in this way are called "manual therapies". 

Chiropractors use a range of techniques, with an emphasis on manipulation of the spine. They may also offer advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle, and rehabilitation programmes that involve exercises to do in your own time. Some chiropractors may also offer other treatments, such as acupuncture. 

Chiropractic is part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This means that chiropractic is different in important ways from treatments that are part of conventional western medicine. 

Some uses of chiropractic treatments are based on ideas and an evidence base that are not recognised by the majority of independent scientists."* 

I wore a splint for over three months – sadly with no results. I am so tired of this! The pain didn’t get any better while wearing it, but the headache was always at a stable 2/10, which I cannot complain about. The dentist suggested seeing a colleague chiropractor. I have been seeing him now for a few weeks, although with no concrete results.

The chiropractor gave me various exercises to carry out at home, which I did religiously. During our sessions, which last a fleeting 15 minutes, he has carried out various neck exercises. My neck is certainly more flexible, which the chiropractor seems pleased with, although it hasn’t made any difference to my headache, which needless to say hasn’t pleased me too much.

I now have another two sessions left. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but given that it has made absolutely no difference to my head pain, I am not expecting any miracle cures over the next week.

In the last few weeks, however, just as I was about to take out the splint, the headache got substantially worse – to about a 6/10 last week which had not happened in a long time. One really forgets about how bad it can be. I thought my head was about to burst. I could feel the blood trying to push through my veins and pump away all over the right hand side of my head, thumping away. When my headache is bad, I can move my head about and feel the pain reverberating elsewhere in my head – like a loose tool in a box, it’s as if the pain were jumping about, digging into my skull.

Today it seems to have calmed down, at about a 3/10. Why? I just wish I knew.

Monday 10 February 2014

Day 1879 - TMJ Attempt 3

I would like to apologise to the readers of this blog for my silence over the last few months. Since starting this blog, I told myself that I would not whinge and whine about my headache; rather, I would try and post about possible cures found.

Since my last post a few months ago there has been a change in the headache. It’s still very much there - but shifting, which has never happened since it started over five years ago (another anniversary passed - a fact I have tried to ignore and once again push away). Over the last few months it seems that the headache has popped up in other places along the right side of my head. It’s always in the middle of my right temporal bone, but it also seems to be further down by my ear. When I put my finger in my ear and exert pressure it hurts.

A few months ago I went to see a TMJ specialist in London. The Doctor read through all of this blog, the first time a doctor I have seen has ever looked at, let alone read, my blog. Just by reading my entries, he felt certain my headache was jaw related. He even wrote up the session’s diagnosis before I had arrived to our appointment - which he showed me after our session, ticking off each point one by one.

I decided to get a second opinion. I did some online searches and came across the website of Dr Grossman, an orthodontist in central London. His website has a detailed (and very interesting) section on headaches. I am able to tick quite a few symptom boxes:

During my first session, the Doctor prodded all sorts of points in my head, jaw, neck and shoulders - many of which made me jump. He asked me to get a TMJ MRI to see what showed. I have had two MRI’s since the onset of the headache - but neither of them of my jaw.

The results showed that my jaw is slightly displaced. I do not - and have not - got too excited at the prospect of having solved my headache, given the amount of times that I have been let down in the past, thinking I had found a cure. So now I feel hopeful but in a way nearly indifferent - of course I want the wretched pain to go away, but I am not getting my hopes too high.

I have been wearing a splint for the past three weeks day and night. The Doctor said I would notice a difference within the first week. Three weeks have gone by and I am yet to see any reduction in pain - but after five years of constant pain I am certainly not expecting the pain to disappear overnight.

But fingers crossed.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Day 1762 - Healer

A friend came over for supper a few months ago and handed me a book: “Read it. Maybe it will help you. You could go and see him”, she said to me. The book was called The Link. “He” referred to Matthew Manning, author and healer.

I never thought I would find myself resorting to a healer, but after nearly five years of constant headache, one tries to experiment with everything, in the hope that the wretched beast will depart for good. The book recounts Matthew’s highly unusual poltergeist disturbances as a child, and his capacity later to heal people with his energy.

Needless to say, I was reluctant to go but thought I’d give it a try. My friend had been severely ill as a young girl, so much so that she missed months of school. Matthew miraculously healed her, and since then she feels like she has had her life back. Maybe he could miraculously cure me too.

I drove for a long five hours to reach Devon, on the southwest coast of England, for my first appointment. I found Matthew to be a warm, welcoming man who immediately made me feel at ease as soon as I walked into his little studio. There was nothing in the room, except for a reclining chair that was placed in the very centre, in which he asked me to sit. The session lasted about thirty minutes. Matthew’s hands rested against my temples for the duration. My eyes were closed, and I remained immobile as his hands moved around my head. “It’s not your stomach”, he told me. “It may be something out of place in your jaw, but I can’t feel anything… strange”.

I returned later that day for a second session, which unfolded in exactly the same manner as the first. I was asked to return a few weeks’ later.

The headache seemed to fluctuate in intensity over the following weeks, but who knows whether it is connected with what Matthew did to me. I drove all the way back to Devon for my third and final session.

Over one month has now passed since, and I am afraid to say the headache is still very much there, with a life of its own, making itself very much present all day and all night long.

Friday 2 August 2013

Day 1688 - TMJ Attempt 2

I don’t think words are quite enough to explain how sick I am of this wretched headache. It lurks, it hangs around, it’s always there – what does it want from me? I just wish I had an answer. I still remain firmly convinced that there must be a reason for this pain. If your body is screaming out, it’s telling you something is wrong. But what?

The neck scan I had a while ago came out fine. No surprises there. I have been seeing the kinesiologist regularly and had some ups and downs since one of our most intense sessions a few weeks ago, when doing some work on my jaw. Could it be the teeth grinding? I had my jaw professionally checked years ago at a dentist’s clinic when the headache started. All manner of little prods and machines were placed around my mouth but all the results came out negative. I thought I’d go and get checked again, as after over four years of having a constant headache, maybe something was going to show up.

“Eat softer foods and come back and see me in two months” is what I heard. I nearly asked this “TMJ specialist” who, may I point out, is younger than me (hardly much of a specialist), to repeat. “I have had a constant headache for four and a half years”, I tried to explained to him. “I don’t think it will mysteriously disappear over the next two months, as much as I’d like it to.” And so I left, clutching a pointless piece of paper with an appointment to go back in September.

Sunday 31 March 2013

Day 1564 - Another to add to the pile?

Dashed hopes, yet again.

Last week I went to see a physiotherapist whom a friend swore by. Apparently he has cured all sorts of “incurable” patients, including a little boy who could barely walk. The child was up and running in no time after seeing him on a regular basis for a few weeks.

I immediately liked the doctor when I saw him, which I think is of great importance when it comes to treatment. He exerted pressure on my headache point and looked at my neck and jaw. He looked at me and said “I am 95% sure I know what it is. You’ll be fine” My immediate reaction was to tell him not to be overly confident given that I have been battling with this monster for over four years. Nonetheless, a little part of me deep inside wanted to sob with joy. All sorts of rhetorical questions flew around my mind: “Can you imagine if in two weeks you don’t have a headache?!”, “What will it be like?!” I even set myself all sorts of goals if the headache left me for good.

My second (and so far last) session a few days ago had a slightly different outcome. I told the doctor that there had been no difference in the headache since the first session. In fact, if anything, it had got slightly worse. He played around with the headache again, hitting the exact spot. As he was manipulating me, I could tell that he was also baffled.

“My patients all notice a difference after the first treatment. Come back next week for the final one, but if it hasn’t gone by then, then I can’t help you”. That was the end of our session. At this comment I also felt like crying, yet this time out of despair and disappointment. I warned him, “I told you I am an unusual case”.

I now feel indifferent at the third session which will take place in a few days. I would love to believe the headache will go away but I can’t imagine it will do so given that there has been no difference in the last two weeks. As I left I thought about an interesting fact that my mother told me years ago and which I believe I have mentioned in a previous blog post. In ancient times, Chinese doctors were only remunerated once they cured a patient. If they didn’t cure them, then that meant they didn’t carry out their job properly and thereby didn’t get paid. Should it not be like this now, especially after having been given dashed hopes, yet again? I thought to myself, what am I paying for here? For another sheet to add to my headache folder?

Monday 17 December 2012

Day 1460 - Electro Smog / Electromagnetic Sensibility

Due to the introduction of mobile phones, computers, CCTV cameras, satellite televisions and digital radios, our lives are enveloped in electronic radiation. This phenomenon has been described as 'electro smog', so all-pervasive are the pulsing microwave signals that surround us on a daily basis. 
Of course, we cannot see all this electronic activity, but if we could, the sight would be dramatic. Stepping from somewhere free of modern electronic gadgetry into a Wi-Fi active zone would be the equivalent of walking from a peaceful country lane onto the hard shoulder of Spaghetti Junction. 
EMF Sensitivity is an adverse health reaction, similar to an allergy, caused by the radiation emitted from cell phones, microwave or cell phone towers, radar, satellite, infrared, ultrasonic devices, Wifi, WiMax, GPS, RFID tags, computers, power lines, and other electrical equipment.

Some studies suggest that as much as five per cent of the population may already be suffering from headaches, concentration difficulties, chronic fatigue, irritability and behavioural problems because of this electro smog.*


I remember watching a documentary a while back on wifi radiation. Those interviewed were Scandinavian women who were severely affected by wifi radiation. This caused them all manner of ills, from a general feeling of malaise to more severe aches and pains. As a result of their sensitivity to radiation, they had to entirely plaster their house with what was effectively tin foil which, as far as I understood, would prevent the radiation from entering the interior of the household.

It has crossed my mind that my headache may be due to wifi sensitivity. However, I haven’t noticed any difference in the headache when travelling to remote areas with no wifi or mobile phone signal. I wonder if the effects are immediate? Do those with wifi sensitivity notice an immediate headache when they are in an area with radiation and does it ‘switch off’ as soon as they are away from it?

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Day 1342 - Viscountess Anne Conway & The Headache That Lasted For 48 Years

When my sister sent me the above photo I immediately asked her where she had taken it. Oddly enough, her answer was ‘In a museum’. I immediately Googled “Viscountess Anne Conway + headache” and soon discovered that Anne did indeed suffer from a mysterious headache for virtually all her life. She died in 1679.

I wonder what people thought of her headaches back then. Did they think she was a hypochondriac? A liar? A witch? An emotionally unstable, neurotic woman in need of some fresh sea air?

Anne was actually a highly respected 17th century philosopher, metaphysicist and intellectual whose ideas and criticisms on Descartes and Hobbes influenced later writers.

Her debilitating chronic headaches are mentioned in a number of sources. From what I have researched, I am unable to say whether Anne suffered from one persistent headache or a series of continuous attacks. It seems to me it was probably one continuous headache, but given that most people do not even believe such a thing possible, over time I think some physicists and historians may have eventually settled for ‘headaches’ in the plural.

Her severe headache perplexed friends and doctors alike, leading her to try all sorts of (dangerous) cures including mercury and opium, albeit to no avail. In a desperate attempt to cure the headache, Anne even travelled to France to be trepanned. No one dared proceed with the operation and eventually her jugular arteries were opened instead – an equally risky procedure. A renowned alchemist and healer was even invited to Anne’s country home to try and rid her of the debilitating pain, but her headache persisted. It continued to baffle eminent physicians and doctors for the rest of her life.

It appears her headache started at the age of 12. It was initially attributed to her excessive studying habits, although a number of sources claim it started following a severe illness accompanied by fever, which left a lingering headache that continued for the rest of her life.

The headache had a clear influence on her life and ideas:

“The way her own suffering from increasingly debilitating headaches contributed to the development of her philosophical assessment of pain as an integral part of the process of purification adds an autobiographical element to her writing that is all too often ignored in the analysis of philosophical systems.”***
Anne was not considered mad, mentally unstable or neurotic given her constant headache and pleas for help. If only our doctors, like those four centuries ago, believed us when we say we suffer from a continuous headache that never goes away.


Monday 25 June 2012

Day 1285 - It's All In Your Head

"Many people know about other contributing factors such as heredity, food triggers, lack of sleep, poor posture, etc., but are not aware of any psychological connection.

Headache specialists report that many of their patients resist any discussion of emotional or psychological contributors to their recurrent headaches. Some people fear that pursuing this avenue could uncover evidence of "mental illness." Others feel that the existence of these factors would make their pain less real because it would then be "all in their heads". In just about all cases, neither of these 2 things is true!

Headache is definitely a biological disorder. However, since the body and the mind are interconnected, your emotional and psychological states can have an effect on your overall health, including your headaches. Here's why:

- When your emotional and psychological systems are in good working order, they help to create a positive environment that contributes to the health of your body.

- When these systems aren't working so well...for example, if you feel anxious, depressed or angry on a frequent basis — and especially if you find it difficult to shake these feelings — a negative environment can be created in your body that may contribute to a specific headache episode or create a fertile breeding ground for headaches to occur.

The relationship between anxiety, depression and headache is not fully understood. However, it is known that the brain chemical serotonin plays a role in all of them. Some headache specialists have theorized that these disorders may share a common mechanism in the brain.

Research has shown that some chronic headache sufferers also suffer from depression and/or anxiety. It is important to note that these sufferers' psychological conditions may not be caused by their headaches. Rather, tendencies towards depression or anxiety may be inherent in their personalities or ways of thinking. Or, they may be the result of an intense and prolonged level of stress which may lead to psychological conditions such as anxiety or depression. Regardless of the cause, having frequent headaches and feeling a lack of control over them may cause an existing condition of depression or anxiety to worsen. This situation can easily snowball, creating a vicious cycle of headache and emotional distress.

Unfortunately, emotional and psychological factors are often not considered in the treatment of headache. Doctors (especially those who are not headache specialists) tend to emphasize medical treatment — and rightly so. This is the traditional "first line of defense" and is effective for most headache patients. So is appropriate to start — and, for most, to stop — there. Also, some doctors today are cautious not to focus on psychological factors during the earlier stages of headache treatment — possibly overcompensating for the days when many doctors treated patients as if the pain was "all in their heads."
Doctors who do bring up psychological contributors as a possibility often find that their patients want to avoid psychological treatment, fearing a "mentally ill" diagnosis or having a concern that the presence of these factors would mean that their headaches are not a serious medical problem. This is very unfortunate because nothing could be farther from the truth!"*

It has taken me over three years to write this post.

When the headache started - which now seems all those years ago - I went to see a psychologist about it. The headache had exacerbated to such a degree that I was unable to work and felt completely depressed about my situation. After telling her about the distress that the headache had caused, she looked at me, arms gently folded over her lap, and stated “It must be such a headache having this pain!” and gave a little chuckle. I brushed aside this silly joke, ignoring it and thinking that maybe she had unintentionally let it out. However, when the very same joke repeated itself over the course of the next sessions, I felt hurt, frustrated and angry that a person contending to be there to help could actually end up aggravating a situation. I could bear it no longer and after a few sessions I left. That was the last of any psychological treatment I have undergone.

The possibility of the headache being related to a close friend’s death which took place a few months before the onset of my headache, has crossed my mind more than once. But nearly four years down the line I do not think the headache is related to this, or at least entirely to this. It is possible that I have not yet recovered from the shock of losing such a close friend. I truly believe there is a strong link between body and mind and that a traumatic event can undoubtedly have consequences on one’s body. The passage above taken from a Headache Centre webpage discusses this in further detail. Just today I also came across an article on the BBC website on a similar topic.

The reason it has taken me so long to write anything on this is that I am unable to draw the line between the “it could be a psychologically caused headache ” to a “it’s all in your head” (i.e. fictional). I am certain, from the manner in which this question is usually addressed to me, that by ‘psychological’ the word ‘fictional’ is intended. Does anyone feel the same?

Sunday 15 April 2012

Day 1214

Just yesterday I spoke to someone over the phone and asked him how he was. “Just a bit of a headache today”, was his answer. Needless to say, all kinds of thoughts flashed through my head. I could not bring myself to say “Oh, sorry to hear”, as one would normally do. I just brushed it aside muttering some sort of a “I understand” under my breath. I find it impossible to empathise with people who have ‘a bit of a headache’ – if only they knew.

I must admit I have become more and more secretive about the Headache. When It started I told virtually everyone about It, hoping that someone along the way would have an acquaintance with a similar story and know about a miraculous cure; but as time has gone by, I have not dared tell any new friends. The only people who currently know about It are those whom I had originally told.

In my mind there is a stark division: the before and after It started - those who knew me already, and those whom have only known me with a headache (much to their ignorance). I sometimes wonder if they would think of me any differently if they had met me before.

As a reader of this blog rightly suggested, having our headaches has undoubtedly led us all to explore different paths in life. In a way, there are many new and different areas that I have looked into to find a cure. I have learned and assimilated so much new information that I would certainly not have acquired otherwise; but I can’t help thinking how much better my daily life would be without this witch of a Headache, without having to open my eyes every single morning and have the side of my head pressing in – a wonderful reminder that it is always there.

Friday 13 January 2012

Day 1121

The three year headache anniversary passed unnoticed – or should I say ignored. One year, two years, three years.. it nearly seems to make no difference anymore. It’s been dragging on for so long that my hope that it will cease is waning.

I wish those who didn’t suffer from this wretched thing could understand how awful it is. Having a constant headache is so tiring, it makes the world so much heavier, every moment drags on for so much more, even when it's a fun moment, it's always somehow ruined because nothing is ever perfect, there's always that horrible headache reminding me that something is wrong.

One of my greatest passions is reading and yesterday, as I was reading a book, I had to stop for a while as the headache – for whatever inexplicable reason – was quite strong at that moment and it made it hard for me to concentrate. So the headache is always there, reminding me of its presence (don’t worry, I won’t forget you, dear) at every moment. Even when I have a few moments to myself, to sit back and relax, the headache topic inevitably comes up. I question it but soon get tired as I have no answers, and try to brush it aside.

I have learned to try and not ponder too much on its presence, to try and get on with daily life as much as possible and not let it interfere with my life, but the truth is that at times when I go to bed, I sometimes wonder ‘What if I just don’t wake up tomorrow?’ The truth of the matter is that, as much as I can ignore it, I realise that it is not normal to have had a headache for three years and sometimes I worry that the wretched thing may play its final joke on me.