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Need Guidance on Headache/Neck Pain!

rainman11rrainman11 Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hey yall…

Well, this is my first post and I need help!

I am 49 years old, male. Stay in really good shape, eat mostly a cave-man diet.

I had never had a headache in my life until 2 years ago on New Year’s eve. I was playing a computer game (I tend to play a computer game about 1 hour per night after work) and my eyes were tired/strained, then wham. The headache was centered on my right eye, only on one side of head. In pulsing waves, felt like someone pushing on my right eye. Some nausea, light sensitivity. Lied down for 3 hours and it went away. I got another one in a day or so, same thing, then another in a few days. In between, I felt different, I call it ‘being on the edge of a headache’, a tension or tightness or electricity in my head, like another attack could come if I push any of the triggers.

Since the attacks were usually eye strain triggered, specifically looking at a computer screen or reading, and I work as a computer designer, this was a huge deal. The pain seemed to originally come from the base of the right base of my neck and then somehow get associated with my eye, and would move all over on my right side during an attack, from my neck to my eye. My eye was literally sore during and after an attack.

I would often have to go lie down during a work day for 3 hours while another headache passed, which was not good for my job! This went on for weeks.

I went to a neurologist to check for a brain tumor. I found out I had no issues with brain tumors or aneurysms with a CAT scan.

I finally went to a chiropractor. He said that the headaches were caused by neck pain (due to my spine/neck being ‘out of alignment) which in turn caused my muscles to spasm in the right base of my neck, which in turn triggered the headache, and that somehow it downstream affected my right eye, and that allowed eye strain to trigger a headache.

I also got a book about migraines and it suggested 1) don’t take the ‘rebound causing pain meds that the neurologist gives you’ and 2) get rid of dietary triggers (caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, citrus fruit, aspartame, nitrates, etc).

About a month after going to the chiropractor and changing my diet, suddenly no more headaches, yea!!!

Then, this time the day after New Year’s (2 years later almost to the day), I had a day where I put a lot of strain on my eyes (drove a long ways), then when I got home I played a computer game, and boom, the exact kind of headache as two years before. I got another one playing a computer game 2 nights later. Both seemed to be related, just as two years earlier, to eye strain, but also the ‘epicenter’ of the pain seemed to be the right base of my neck in a kind of muscle spasm, then the pain goes back and forth between my right eye and right base of my neck.

These latest headaches lasted between 2-4 hours and usually occurred after a day of eye strain looking at computers (my job and my hobby both). I then lie in bed for up to four hours unable to sleep and praying to God for help to know what to do. The pain was BAD for the whole time with waves of pain going in and out and moving around between my neck and eye on my right side.

I went back to a different chiropractor and within a few adjustments the really bad headaches went away. HOWEVER, this time the feeling of something being wrong with my neck and the feeling of tightness/soreness/electricity in my head DID NOT GO AWAY completely like it did 2 years ago, so I feel like they could come back at any moment if I push any of the triggers.

I have been going to the chiropractor for 2 months now and also a rolfer. I am doing neck exercises per the chiropractor, sleeping enough, not drinking wine, not eating any of the dietary triggers (chocolate, nitrates, MSG, aspartame, etc). not playing computer games, not running on my treadmill, yet the feeling of ‘something being wrong’ persists.

I got laid off during all of this, and I have a really important new job starting in two weeks that will require 10 hours a day of looking hard at a computer screen and concentrating, and yet when I spent 8 hours yesterday looking at a computer screen, the eye strain feeling was back, causing a blocky/tight/tense feeling behind my eyes and my neck remains very tight and sore. I am really concerned about starting this new job in this kind of condition!

On getting glasses, I just had my eyes checked in Decemeber and got new glasses for the first time ever, yet they seem to actually make it worse as my eyes seem to do better with things being somewhat diffuse. I had been using my new far vision glasses while driving when I got my first headache this year, and using my reading glasses seemed to give me more, not less, eye strain.

The main problem is that I don’t know exactly what is causing the problem or how to go about fixing it. Is it a pure headache issue, like migraines or cluster or tension headaches, a neck related thing, or an eye related thing? My gut says the core issue is my neck and that somehow is causing my eyes to be adversely affected. So, I don’t know where to turn for what to do.

I just ordered the following migraine/headache books and some neck pain books from Amazon.


I also ordered the following supplements to start taking,

Vitalzyme from World Nutrition
Butterbur with Feverfew
Glucosamine & Chondroitin

I am very concerned of having this issue forever going forward! Since eye strain seems to be a triggering factor, it has taken away all my enjoyments (computer games, TV, reading) AND its directly affecting my job.

If I had a broken leg, I would go to a doctor, get a cast, etc, rest for 5 weeks, then all better. With this, I am stumbling in the dark as to what to do and everyone I go to (family, friends, chiropractor, rolfer, etc) all tell me different things.

One other note is that I am having to buy my own insurance with the new job, so I will have very high deductable and will have to pay full price for any doctor I go see.

What does this sound like?

What books/websites should I be reading?

What kind of doctor should I be seeing?

Thanks so much for reading this far, you are truly wonderful for doing so!



  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    As I'm sure you know, we're not doctors here and can't tell you what even might be going on.

    With that said, a good starting point might be to stop the chiro treatments and go to your PCP (if you have cervical problems, it's usually best to not be manipulated until you find out what's going on). It might be a good idea to get an x-ray of your cervical area and see if there's something going on. I think it's time to start ruling some things out, not speculating on what might be happening. With the fact that you seem to feel it might be coming from your neck, that could be a good place to start.

    I wonder if it's not eye strain so much as the way you're sitting at your computer. Do you slump? When I play some computer games or do computer design work, I tend to lean in to the screen as I'm very intense on what I'm doing. If you've been doing this for many years, you might have developed some spine issues, perhaps cervical.

    So again, I'd suggest reading around this site, seeing what the symptoms of cervical problems are and making an appointment with your PCP for a cervical x-ray and/or examination.

    Take care and please keep us posted.
  • Thanks...

    Going to a PCP is an issue now that I no longer have health insurance. XRays alone would likely cost in the many hundreds of dollars. I have found a new job, but they dont provide insurance at all, so will have some emergency type plan with a very high deductible...should i bite the bullet and still go to a real neck doctor. My chiro said all they know how to do is operate, so that is what they will suggest, so he recommended saving my money. What to do?!

    I used to sit sideways looking at the computer screen, but the rolfer told me to sit straight and that helped but the eye strain/tension/tightness in my head persists...


  • Hi there. I have cervical issues, operated, and suffer from daily tension headaches, and then migraines and what they call ice-pick headaches (feels like someone is hammering a spike into my skull, righ side only, and in behind my eye). My neuro surgeon has said to never ever go to a chiropractor, due to the injuries in my neck, they could actually cause more and permanent damage. Like Cathie said, I would stop the chiro until you know if or exactly what is going with your neck.

    Your chiro was right, in that tension headaches are caused by muscle spasms, which are caused because they are trying to protect your neck from the injuries. However, depending on the situation, a surgeon may not suggest surgery, in fact it happens a lot that they don't, depending on what is going on.

    As for your work station, do you have it ergonomically set up? Your monitor should be at arm's length away, not any further so you're not thrusting your head forward, and the screen should be at eye level. It should also be positioned directly in front of you, so that you're not turning and straining your neck to look at it. If your monitor doesn't adjust up far enough, then use some books underneath it. Your keyboard should be at a level that your arms are at a 90 degree angle. Also, a wrist guard is most beneficial. Your chair is also important, you should be able to fit your fist in between the back of your knees and the seat. If there's more room than that, your chair is too small for you, and that in itself can cause problems for your neck and back. It should be raised (or lowered) so that your legs are at a 90 degree angle, and your feet sit flat on the floor. The back should be at an angle that keeps your back straight, and so you aren't pushing your head forward, this causes a lot of strain on the neck. The arms of the chair should be at a height that keeps your forearms/wrists/hands level with your keyboard when you rest your elbows on them. And of course, you have to remember the arm length rule for your monitor when you pull your chair up to work. All of these tips I got from my physiotherapist, who actually came to my work and fixed up my workspace so that it was ergonomically correct.

    Also, I found that playing with the brightness and contrast levels helped me when I had to be at my computer for long steady periods of time, a little lower on the scale was better for me and my eyes, or getting a glare screen will help as well.

    Anyways, I agree with Cathie, you need to find out what is wrong, if anything, with your neck, before speculating. You can definitely start with making your work/home stations ergonomically correct, which can be done for free! But discussing with your pcp is a good start point, and they can refer you to the proper specialist. Good luck!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • So, you would recommend going to a orthapedist for xrays and consultation? Or to an osteopath? Even though i have to pay full price, i.e. no insurance right now?

  • A neurologist might be a good start. They specialize in migraines and headaches. I have epilepsy and heavy computer usage, especially games that have flashing lights cause me to have seizures. The light emitted from a computer screen may be triggering your headaches. It's called photosensitivity. They can do an eeg to test your brainwave response to various stimuli including strobe lights. It's expensive. You could try just not using the computer (or limiting it), not playing that particular game and see if it stops. My neurologist says no TV or computers 2 hrs before bed because it affects the sleep cycle which is the most crucial and overlooked aspect of good health and lack of refreshing sleep can also trigger headaches. Then start to play it again and see if it triggers them. I have nothing against alternative medicine and use some myself but healthcare is a business just like anything else and they all want your money.
  • I believe there are special glasses you can wear just for computer usage to help with eye strain. Using a computer for that long is very intense. Computers in the work place typically do not provide very good monitors that have a high refresh rate. High refresh rates minimizes the affect on the eyes.
  • What kind of glasses for the computer, where do i look for that?

    I can't stop looking at a computer given that that is my job! I can stop playing computer games at home though, which i have done, and everytime i try and play one again, it affects me quickly...sigh...

    I have set up an appointment with a headache specialist that was highly recommended on Teri Roberts Help for Migraines website.

    I am wondering how much he will be able to help, given i am only in Dallas (where he is) for a few weeks, but thinking he is a good first step. It's hard to go to someone like him, given that i have no health insurance at the moment, but thinking it will be worth the cost. At least he will be a good starting point and point me in the right direction i am hoping.

    On the med front, i just received some supps, Now Foods' Butterbur with Feverfew, and also got some 'migralief' (has feverfew, magnesium and B2)...

  • I have things pretty egonomically setup already, and have played with the contrast/brightness on the computer...so, don't think that is the problem.

    Seeing a rolfer and a chiro already, now about to see a headache specialist, who may send me to a neck specialist of some kind. It still seems to be coming ultimately from something wrong with my neck, rather than just being migraines all on their own, i.e. the problem is really something wrong with me neck.

  • For the longest time, I thought that I was keeping all my tension in my shoulders and neck and that was what was giving me the bad occipital headaches (pain around the eye area). My pain was on the left side and my vision in that one eye would be worse when I look at a TV or computer screen. No one believed me when I said that even my left eye bulged out a little more than the right. Even the ophthalmologist could not notice a difference.

    I found out last June that it I had DDD in the neck and all my problems were coming from the spine. An MRI is very expensive, so perhaps start with an x-ray. Not all neurosurgeons will suggest surgery, but most will. So I agree that a neurologist would be the first step. Good luck and keep us posted! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
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