A turning point: Massage

Not too far in to my headache story (after seven months of a constant headache, neckache and nausea, in fact), I was pretty run down and stressed.  I decided to try going to a massage therapist.

I researched a few in my local area.  I knew I needed someone who knew about myofascial pain and trigger point massage, instead of the ‘beauty’ type of ‘scented-candle-whale-music’ massage.

I emailed a few places and got several responses (generally of the “yeah, we can help with that” kind) but received a detailed, confidence-inspiring response from one of them (Paula at Bodyworks in Daventry, for local readers).

I had 5 sessions. During this time, Paula was able to eliminate, piece by piece, specific areas of back and shoulder pain.

The ‘trigger point’ method involves identifying the most painful spots and pressing on them until the pain is no longer felt.  It’s not an easy thing to sit (or lie) through, but it was of tremendous help to me at the time, and Paula really put me at ease.

I’m interested to know if anyone has had success with treating pain or headache with massage?Pain-Positive-Tag1

Yay! The Real Neat Blog Award

Thank you, Invisible Pain Warriors, for nominating me, I’m very honoured!  If you haven’t already found your way to this blog, please do – it’s a touching, well-written account of living with pain.


The Rules

  • Put the award logo in your post.
  • Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blog.
  • Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blog.
  • Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog)

I was asked:

Would you rather watch a movie at home or watch it in the theater?  I used to love the cinema experience but find that it does nothing to help a headache! Also, my immaculate taste in films *cough*- crappy old 80s films / old black and white zombie movies – isn’t shared by many people and so I can only see those ones at home!

What is one of your biggest pet peeves?  A lack of manners. It costs nothing to smile or hold a door for someone.

What is your favorite color?  Blue. A rich blue hue is calming and makes me smile.

What is your favorite band?  I have had a deep love for music ever since Freddie Mercury walked on stage in a tight white vest at Live Aid in 1985. I was 7 years old and I felt his passion! I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite artist, so I’ll have to say Queen for rocking my bones that day!

Do you have any pets?  Growing up, we had a cat who used to look in to my eyes and read my soul!! I live on the second floor these days, and pets are not an option, but I’d love another one day.

Fiction or non-fiction?  The Headache has meant that I haven’t been able to read either for the last couple of years, but I still continue to buy books (I can’t resist). My “will-read-as-soon-as I’m-able-to” pile contains mainly non-fiction books about art history and language.

During which month were you born?  I’m an August baby. The long hot days of summer are definitely my favourite time of year.

My nominations are: 

And my questions for my award nominees…

  • What makes you happiest?
  • Why do you blog?
  • Where was your favourite holiday?
  • Who is your favourite fictional character, and why?
  • What is your favourite food?
  • What is your favourite motto / quote?
  • Have you gained anything positive from your illness?  Pain-Positive-Tag1

Mission: Reduce tension

Yet another neurologist.

The appointment had been swapped and changed around a couple of times, because it had been begged as a favour.  Together with the fact that the previous 5 weeks had been mostly bed-bound, and that I couldn’t help but do the usual thing of putting all my hopes on this one appointment, I was pretty anxious going in to the clinic.

I needn’t have bothered getting worked up. He asked me questions – questions that I have never been asked before about my headache history, my lifestyle, how it feels when I’m in pain… Imagine that – a doctor who listened to my answers.  And not only listened, but seemed to read between the lines, too.

He told me of a patient that he had seen previously with very similar symptoms. He had diagnosed her with a tension headache with migraine symptoms. He had treated her with an anti-depressant that is used, in this case, as a muscle relaxant.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I started to cry!

Why are you crying?” he inquired.

“Because I have been prescribed an anti-depressant before, and I had a terrible time.” I explained that the ENT consultant I had seen had given me 6 weeks worth of pills, but did not tell me that they were an anti-depressant, and gave me no warning of the dangers of stopping them abruptly. [Read about my experience.]

He reassured me that we would increase and decrease the dose gradually, as should always be done, so that that would not happen again.

But then he said, “You got upset before I mentioned the amitriptyline, why was that?”

Unbelievable! Not only listening, but observing and reading between the lines – this is unheard of!

Because I’ve heard those terms before – headache, migraine – and it doesn’t help me – I don’t know what to do about them.”

It’s true – those terms have been mentioned before, both in terms of them being suggested and of them being dismissed as causes. I have left many consultations thinking, but if that is the cause, what next? Who is going to help me to manage it or cure it?

I spent the next couple of minutes apologetically breathing back the tears to regain some composure, during which he talked about how very seriously he takes headache, that he knows it can be life-changing, and of the cases he has seen before. Hallelujah! That is the first time I’ve heard any of those things!

We discussed the role that anxiety plays in illness, and I guess I had to concede that my response to whatever started the headache has been tension and anxiety (understandable, I think, given what it’s done to my life!).

I have started a course of amitriptyline, moving up a dose each week. The strange thing is that, now the tension over my right eye has been identified by someone else as causing the pain and nausea that I live with daily, I’ve become super-aware of how tense that muscle is, and I’m able to see a way forward in the task of un-tensing it.


He explained that the white “structural damage” seen on my MRI is not uncommon in migraine sufferers and, for now at least, we won’t investigate this further.

Two further appointments – to an optometrist and a reading clinic – will, I hope, explore if there is actually anything wrong with my eye / reading ability. Maybe I will have to accept that it is entirely tension – although the fact that this started very suddenly at a time when I was at my happiest leaves me with a seed of doubt (one which I will happily admit that I’m wrong about if the amitriptyline helps me and returns me to a normal way of living!).Pain-Positive-Tag1

Life In Google

If you can tell a lot about a person’s life by looking at their Google history, mine would look worrying, at best..!

I was thinking about this at 4am this morning while I was Googling “quick remedies for acid reflux” (an unwelcome side effect of medication, in case you were wondering).

I’m pretty sure I used to Google “cheapest route to Innsbruck” and “cute pandas”.  I miss those Googling days!

If this doesn't make you smile, check your pulse.

If this doesn’t make you smile, check your pulse.

Hope: A consultant who cares

After my last consultation, at the end of which, I was told that there was ‘nothing wrong with me’, I felt I had nowhere left to go.

After spending a couple of days feeling helpless and – I will admit, doing a fair bit of crying! – I decided to take matters in to my own hands and find my own doctor – one willing to acknowledge, at the very least, that there is something wrong with me, and at least try to work out what that something is.

I spent a headache- and nausea-filled Sunday afternoon writing out all my notes – every appointment, every possible diagnosis that has been mentioned and ruled out, every symptom… I researched the local neurologists, opthalmologists and ENT specialists and I posted my notes out to the first 10 on my list with a letter asking if they could offer any help.

The responses were mixed, ranging from the very lovely;

“Thank you for your letter. I am sorry that you are having such problems and that the cause/diagnosis is proving so elusive. I doubt if I can further your cause as the bulk of my clinical work relates to glaucoma which obviously is not the issue here. So as you can see I am of no help to you for which I can only apologise.  Hoping that you make progress.”

to the (mostly) not-quite-so-helpful, including;

“I’m afraid I find it inappropriate to be asked for medical advice via mail. I would suggest that if your headaches are still an issue, the sensible thing to do is to visit your GP.”

(Gosh, I wish I’d thought of that!!)

As it happens, I have a close relative who has worked for many years in a hospital, and she suggested I approach one of the consultants that she has worked with and ask whether he might know someone who could help me.

His response was overwhelmingly nice.  I haven’t been accustomed to such kindness!  He reviewed my notes and spoke to a neurology consultant that he knows. I think I might have said “thank you” too many times!




Hula baby!

An osteopath that I saw in 2013 suggested that, when I get shoulder / neck / back aches and pains, I should try hula-hooping.

That look on your face right now – that’s what I did, too. “Is this guy kidding?”

But two years later, my crazy-coloured £2 hula hoop still gets pulled out when I have the odd ache, and it works faster than taking a painkiller.

When I started hooping, I couldn’t manage more than a few seconds at a time before it hit the floor. Now I can go several minutes in spin-mode. And I admit that, when at work and feeling a bit achy, I do the hula hooping motion (in private!) to help me get through the day.

It also has the added bonus – when doing it regularly – of very quickly tightening up your belly muscles. The repetitive hip gyrations help strengthen your core muscles. And you can’t help but feel good and positive when doing it.

Has anyone else benefited from hula-hooping? Or something equally wacky?!

It's obligatory that you look this happy when hooping.

It’s obligatory that you look this happy when hooping.