Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Headaches are a Pain

Headaches make clear thinking hard. A couple of years ago, I had a headache for 7 months. Not a daily headache, but a single headache that lasted that whole time. The only thing I found that seemed to help were those headache pills like Excedrin that have acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. I would take 2 in the morning, which would dull the headache to a dull roar, and then sometimes take another one in the mid-afternoon. I couldn’t take 2 in the afternoon, or take any later then that, because the caffeine would affect my sleep, which was already unrefreshing. My doctor ordered various scans of my head; we tried a variety of medications, with no relief.

I searched the internet, and found a doctor who recommended some B vitamins for his patients with headaches. (I don’t remember his name, the website, or specifics on which B vitamins, or dosage.) I went out and bought a bottle of liquid B complex. Within a week, my headache was essentially gone. I have taken the B complex since then. I have had headaches off and on, for a few days, but nothing like those 7 months, until now. I have had a headaches for 1 ½ weeks, the same kind of headache as before, relieved only partially by the headache pills.

My headaches feel like sinus headaches, the front top quarter of my head affected, with my forehead the most painful. My eyebrows feel bruised if I touch them. I decided before that they couldn’t be sinus headaches, because my nose is clear, my breathing unaffected, and the scans showed nothing.

I have Sjogren’s Syndrome. This is an auto immune syndrome affecting the moisture producing glands of the body. The classic symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, both of which I am treating. I also have dry nose, dry other places I will not mention in this post, as well as pain and fatigue. Because of this, I tend to be very conscious of dryness and the need to keep everything moist. I use Ocean Gel morning and night, and sometimes in between to keep the inside of my nose moist.

I use a CPAP machine to keep my airways open so I get enough oxygen at night. I started using it some time before my 7 month headache, far enough before that I never made any connection. It has a humidifier, so the air is moisturized before it goes into my nose. I can adjust the level of the humidity, and try to keep it so that there is a bit of moisture in the nose pillow in the morning, but not a lot of ‘rainout’ in the hose. A couple of nights ago, I had an epiphany. I’m not sure if it was an ’AHA’ moment, or a ‘DUH’ moment. Probably some of each. I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. My nose felt a little dry, so I turned up the humidifier, and went back to sleep. DUHA!!!(?) It seems it was my sinuses causing the headache all along. They were painful from being dry, not from a sinus infection.

Since then, I have turned the humidifier on my CPAP up a couple of notches, so that the air going into my nose is moister. I do have some problem with water collecting in the hose and in the nasal pillow. Whenever I wake in the middle of the night, I take the nasal pillow off and whack it on the bedspread a few times to empty the water out of it (or beat the snot out of it, as my husband says). I also raise the hose up, to empty any water there back into the humidifier. Even so, I will sometimes get water running into my nose, or down my face. That is a small price if it solves my headache problem.

I also am using a nasal irrigator every afternoon, to add more moisture up into my sinuses. The kind I have is a plastic bottle with a nozzle on the top, from Neilmed. (They have alot of other nasal products, as well.) You put warm water in it, add a packet of saline (you can make your own; I think it is easier to just open the packet and dump). Then you lean over the sink, and squeeze the water into one nostril, and it comes out the other. I do all kinds of gymnastics with this, to try to get the solution into all parts of my sinuses. You raise your head, and let the solution drain out, and blow your nose gently to get the rest out. You do this with both nostrils.

It is supposed to clean out anything in the sinuses and nostrils, as well as moisturize them. One article I read said that you can do this up to 4-5 times per day.  Here is a good resource for the how and why of nasal irrigation. There are various types of nasal irrigators; a popular one is called a Neti pot, which looks like a small teapot. This is the third day, and my headache seems to be lessening. I hope that I have at last found the cause, and thus, the cure, for my headache.

No comments:

Post a Comment