Chronic Headache Treatments

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well! We’ve had a crazy couple of weeks at home. The summer temperatures have been 90+ F degrees daily, with a heat index of 100+ F. THEN we had a crazy storm pop up out of nowhere and knocked out all our electricity for several days. It was miserable. We finally have power now, and I’m back online, so I’m playing catch-up!

So back to the point of my post, my daughter is 12 years old and she had a non-stop constant 24/7 headache for 9 months. Oh gosh, approximately 270 days of pain. The pain was in the front of her head area, symmetrical, and it was a just a constant pain that never went away no matter what she did. It didn’t pulse or ebb/flow it was just always THERE. (She has another chronic symptom of constant vertigo as well, but we’ll skip that issue for now).

It’s terrible to see your child in pain for such a long period of time. Of course we tried everything to relieve it. When her headache first appeared, it mostly hovered around a 8-9 pain number on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the worst possible. And it was debilitating to her at that level, preventing her from even getting out of bed most days. She missed so much school and activities because of it.

Below is a list of the chronic headache treatments we’ve tried and what worked/didn’t work for her.

  1. Over the Counter Medications – These include NSAIDS (Aspirins, Ibuprofens, Aleve) and Acetaminophens (Tylenols, etc) and none of these helped relieve her pain at all. We tried these all very heavily at first, and then I learned about Rebound Headaches/Medication Overuse Headaches, and we backed-off since those exact medications can actually CAUSE headaches if you use them too much. Be careful!
  2. At-Home Treatments – We tried many at-home treatments as well. These include resting in silence/the dark, cooling the headache, heating the headache, aromatherapy, sleep, caffeine, etc. We also tried drinking a ton of water to ensure she wasn’t dehydrated. None of these had any effect on my daughter.
    We did purchase a cooling/heating cap for her to try. While the cap didn’t work for my daughter at all, we didn’t want to waste it so we gave to a friend that experiences frequent, but not constant, headaches. And that friend loves it and claims it quickly relieves her headaches everytime she uses it. We’re so happy it helped someone. Here’s a photo of it in case you are curious about it:
  3. Prescribed Medications from a Doctor – We also consulted with several doctors about my daughter’s headaches. The prescribed medications we tried included: All the Triptans which are supposed to block pain pathways in the brain, but they had zero effect on my daughter. We tried Anti-Migraine medications, Anti-Seizure medications, Blood Pressure medications, and Anti-Depressant medications and all had no effect on reducing my daughter’s pain. Some of the medications actually introduced MORE symptoms that made my daughter feel worse – such as light-sensitivity, nausea, lethargy, and sometimes even increased the headache pain. We were about to start different prescription treatments using CGRP antagonists and Nerve Blocks, but we had a development I’ll describe later that took us off that path.
  4. Emergency Room “Migraine Cocktails” – We did go to the Emergency Room for my daughter’s headache pain when it got unbearable for her. The Emergency Room gave her their “Migraine Cocktail” intravenous treatment for the pain and they were shocked when it had no effect on her. They even prolonged the treatment for her under supervision expecting it to work and seriously seemed surprised that it didn’t even help a little bit.
  5. Diagnostic Testing – My daughter was ordered an MRI/MRA of her head and neck to look for any obstructions or compressions, and these tests came back fine. She later had an X-Ray of her neck that did show a structural issue. See item #7 below for the details about that.
  6. Diet – There is an anti-migraine diet that is supposed to help prevent trigger headaches and alleviate the symptoms. Fasting can also trigger headaches so it is recommended NOT to skip meals and make sure to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. Some of the dietary triggers include: alcohol, cheese, processed meats, milk, high fat foods, nuts, etc. The list is pretty exhaustive and sometimes it feels difficult to find items to eat that are safe. But it’s worth a shot if you are suffering with headaches. It didn’t help my daughter.
  7. Chiropractor – We were advised by a doctor to see an “Atlas Orthogonal” chiropractor only. That doctor was very clear that chiropractors can actually make headache issues worse, so only visit that specific type. We found the closest AO chiropractor to us was in a different state and 1 hour drive away (so, a 2 hour round trip), but we made the appointment. Here was where my daughter was given an X-Ray of her neck, and the results were that her atlas bone (the top vertebrea) was rotated and tilted.
    At this point, my daughter’s headache was around an 8 on her pain scale, and had been hovering around 7-9 for several months. The chiropractor did his first alignment session on her and before she even got up from the table, she claimed her pain dropped to a 2. She hadn’t been lower than a 7 in months and I started crying right there I was so happy that something finally helped her.
    The chiropractor was never able to reduce the pain any further, and her headaches remained, but were lower in severity going-forward. They ended-up hovering around 2-5 after that, which was enough of an improvement that she was able to do more things and go to school and start living her life with less pain. He continued to treat her, but it was mostly for maintenance, and not really expecting any more improvements. Follow-up X-Rays showed that her atlas bone is aligned correctly now and seems to be holding in place.
  8. Acupuncture – Now that my daughter’s headache was lower severity (hovering around 2-5 at this point), we started seeking different types of treatments. A few months later, we found an acupuncturist that was highly recommended. I was skeptical about acupuncture because I don’t understand it. (I still don’t). But during my daughter’s acupuncture appointment, the doctor said he wasn’t going to stop until her headache was gone. On this day, my daughter’s headache was around a 5. So, he worked on her by sticking needles in her body. I’m over-simplifying the procedure because it doesn’t make sense to me, but he was very methodological in what he was doing. And he would constantly check-in on her and ask if her headache was gone. She’d say it was still there. So he’d continue sticking needles in her.

    This went on for about an hour. And then he checked-in on her and asked if her headache was gone. This time she said her headache WAS gone. So he stopped. I kinda thought she was lying and said it just to make him stop. So as soon as we left, I asked her if she was lying just to make him stop. And she said, no. It really was gone. And it’s actually been gone ever since. I’ve been worried that it would come back and stay, but it hasn’t yet. My daughter is now 4 months headache-free. It took 9 months to get here. We still go to this acupuncturist for maintenance/preventative and we’re very happy.
  9. Neuroplasticity – This was our next step to try if the acupuncturist didn’t work. Since her headache is gone now, we might still try it anyway for her vertigo issue that still remains. I’ll be oversimplifying again, since I don’t understand, but neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to physically adapt and to structurally create new neural pathways, sometimes called “re-wiring”. Most of us are familiar with negative neuroplasticity – when the brain maladapts to addictions and stress and disorders. But there are clinics focused on positive neuroplasticity, and it can be applied towards pain and vertigo issues.

I hope you all found the information above helpful. I hope none of you are suffering with chronic headaches because it is terrible, but if so, I hope some of the treatments above can help you find relief.

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10 Replies to “Chronic Headache Treatments”

  1. An incredible story and I’m glad it has had a happy ending. My wife started using acupuncture for her psoriasis and it’s really helped. She’s suggested I give it a go for back pain. I was reluctant, but reading this might just have tipped the scales! I might well get needles stuck in me yet!

    1. Oh yes please give it a try. I was skeptical at first, but figured I needed to try it just to check-off another box of all the things we tried. I’m a huge fan now, even though it still doesn’t make sense to me. Please try and let me know how it goes! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. What a journey, but what relief! (Literally). Iโ€™m so glad your daughters headaches are gone and I canโ€™t wait to read that the new treatments rid her of the vertigo as well! Blessings to you both, Pepper.

    1. Thank you so much for all your blessings Mamalava! I’m hoping to be able to post about her vertigo going-away as well. I’m still praying and hoping for that outcome too!

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