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What's causing my headaches?

I was in a car accident about 10 years ago. No major damage and I was treated with chiropractic and massage for the six following weeks. About a year later I started getting headaches at the base of my head. I thought they were related to my depression. They weren't consistent but more episodic and intermittent in nature. I finally figured out if I took 10mg of Valium and 2 extra strength exedrin, they would go away. I've been using that formula for the past 10 years and it's worked great. But my regular psychiatrist recently retired and almost no one in my small town is prescribing controlled substances anymore so I've lost my treatment for these intermittent headaches. My chiropractor here thinks they are caused by chronic whiplash from that old car accident. Most of the time I get them, I don't know what set it off. But sometimes I will get them if I become anxious and my upper body starts to tighten up (shoulders, chest, neck). I feel the pain in my occipital muscles. They're like hard little eggs. If it goes on long enough I start to feel tightness in my jaw and eventually in my temples. But at that point it's really bad. I try to never let it get that far. It really feels like a muscle tension issue, whether it's caused by anxiety or whiplash or something else. But I'm not sure. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I'm now looking for new treatments since I'm unable to get the Valium anymore but I'm not sure where to start. Neurologist? I've had an MRI done of my neck and nothing was wrong but my cervical spine is straight instead of curved. Because these aren't something I deal with on a daily basis, I'm looking for something I can take/do as needed. I don't want to add another med to my already long list that I have to take every day. And massage would be great but I've found it doesn't work preventatively and getting a massage right at the moment I get one isn't practical especially when they come on at night. Can someone point me in the right direction?
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Comments

  • ElorahdEElorahd Posts: 3
    edited 11/23/2012 - 5:38 PM
    I was actually diagnosed with depression years before the accident or the headaches. I've found PT to be helpful if I'm having an acute case that won't go away, but it hasn't been helpful for long term. And with my insurance I think I have to do PT all at once, not like once a week or something to keep things maintained. So I'll sleep on my neck wrong or do the wrong exercise and the headaches start up again. I've tried taking muscle relaxers but they're really only half as effective as the Valium ever was. It really helped my whole body relax and it stayed that way.

  • I have problems with my neck from C3 down to C7.
    I have just had C3/4/5 fused.

    I have been getting headaches in the back of my neck and up into my head. I would often wake in the night with the headache or wake up in the morning with them. I thought that it was because I had slept awkwardly but then found out that I had problems in my neck from an MRI scan. (I was also getting symptoms in my arms.)
    These headaches would come and be there for a few days and then I wouldn't get one for 2 or 3 weeks and then they would be back again.

    I got a contoured neck pillow and this did really help.

    I was told that the surgery may not help them, and that it might even make them worse. I have had a headache today and yesterday. Taking pain meds reduces it, but it is still there, just not so bad. My surgeon said that if my headaches were not tolerable after my surgery, he could try injections to see if that would help.

    Before my surgery, I was seeing a physio every week. He would gently stretch my neck muscles upwards, and that did help at the time but the headache would soon return.

    I hope that you will find something that will really help you.
  • i have had severe pain in the occipital area since before my fusion op in May, which continued post op. last week i had 4 injections into trigger point areas there in the back of my head which has given some relief although at times it rushes back in, at least it is no longer there all the time. good luck, i wish you well
  • Welshlady, what kind of injections did you receive? I get headaches that shoot up the middle of my spine and into the middle of my head like a straight line. all of my headaches are on the left side. Thanks!
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • PaulyPauly Posts: 2
    edited 11/30/2012 - 9:00 AM
    These sound very common to me as I specialize in working with the upper cervical spine. I am a chiropractor and I practice Atlas Orthogonal Technique. People who practice this technique see this type of condition all the time. Tension at the base of the skull causing headaches. It may be a muscular issue, but the (sub) occipital muscles are attached to the top vertebrae in the neck. Often times after treating a patient with these types of headaches they will describe a relief of pressure and their head will feel "lighter". The technique I practice has a directory of certified practitioners at EDIT Otherwise you could search for an upper cervical chiropractor. Most "regular" chiropractors can handle this condition too, but upper cervical chiropractors do specialize in this area. Also basic neck exercises such as "chin tucks/retractions", "brueggers", etc. Massage can sometimes help as well. Stress reduction techniques may help. As always... go get checked by a professional.


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    Post Edited by The Spine-Health Moderator Team
  • Also the tightness in the jaw/temples can be related the to alignment of the temporomandibular joint (jaw joint). This is closely related to the neck. Another professional you could consider working with is a neuromusclar dentist who treats TMD. LVIglobal.com has a directory.

  • about the temporomandibilar joint being closely related to the neck.
    I have pain and problems in that area. I have just had C3/4 and C4/5 fused due to spinal cord compression at those levels just over 3 weeks ago. Do you think that I may get relief from this pain in my jaw now?

    I would say that my neurosurgeon did tell me not to let a chiropractor adjust my neck because I had spinal cord compression. I was seeing a chiropractor for my lumbar spine 3 to 4 years ago as I had a grade 2 spondylolisthesis. I ended up having a fusion for that too. The chiropractor did tell me that I had problems in my neck, and was surprised that I wasn't getting more problems from that. I was getting the headaches then, but didn't realised that there were spinal problems. (I have degeneration throughout my neck with bilateral nerve root compression at all levels below where I have been fused.) He also told me from an x-ray that I have osteophytes at my thoracic level. I know now from an MRI scan that I have 3 discs that are protruding, two of which are compressing my cord slightly.

    Interested to hear what you think about my jaw pain.
  • So Pauly, what do you think the cause of this is? The old whiplash injury? Every time I see my Chiro he does say that my occiput is out on one side. Is this what is causing the headaches? Do you think regular/weekly physical therapy would help to keep the muscles loose? A doc recently prescribed a new muscle relaxer for me. The first dose didn't work and the second dose just barely worked but made me REALLY woozy. So bad I couldn't hold my head up. The muscle relaxers don't seem to be nearly as effective as the Valium and I'm wondering why that is if this is really stemming from muscle tension. Maybe it's a different issue?
  • My story.
    I too had whiplash & then suffered from headaches/migraines almost everyday for two years. Doctors & consultants could not come up with any answers. Finally someone suggested trying the alternative medicine route & I went to see an accupuncturist. Bingo!
    In my case, the shoulder muscles were badly knotted.These are connected via the neck muscles & up into the skull as Pauly mentions. It took 10 visits altogether --chinese medical massage,heat & tens machine as she had to progressively free up the muscles,layer by layer. It was like getting my life back.
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