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I'm 26... been suffering from tension headaches for 10 years!
I'm 26... been suffering from tension headaches for 10 years!
I am a 26 year old male. I have been suffering from tension headaches for the past 8-10 years. I have taken numerous drugs: Tylenol, Aleve, Ibuprofen (up to 800 mgs), etc., and was even diagnosed with a case of rebound headache ultimately due to ergotamine toxicity (due to taking too much Migril). I was put on Pamelor and after a while things got better. I now get headaches a few times a week. Sometimes I get none, sometimes I get them 3-4 times a week at the most. I have been taking Fiorinal for my headaches for at least the last 5-6 years and find that it works best for me.
I moved from the US to Hong Kong sometime ago and canceled my medical insurance there so now obtaining Fiorinal is a bit more difficult. I cannot seem to locate this drug in Hong Kong. I visited a private hospital and after briefly explaining my history to the doctor, he immediately prescribed the following drugs:
- Tryptanol (amitriptyline) – 10MG / 1 Tablet twice daily
- Arcoxia (etoricoxib) – 60MG / 1 Tablet twice daily, if needed
He also tried to schedule a costly MRI which I do not think I need. If I visit private clinics and attempt to have my insurance eat the cost, I can’t really say that I’ve been suffering from headaches for so long as my insurance company will then deem this as a preexisting condition and deny any related claims.. or worse.
I notice amitriptyline (what the doctor prescribed) is the same class of drug as nortriptyline (what I was prescribed in the States previously). I have read online that nortriptyline is more effective and that it poses less side effects than amitriptyline. Can anyone provide me with more information? Is amitriptyline safe to take? It seems like it has many side effects. Also, it seemed like the other drug I was given is actually for arthritis. Has anyone been given this drug for tension headaches?
If anyone has any advice or suggestions – please let me know. I am also interested in knowing if Fiorinal is available in Hong Kong or outside the USA. If I get my new doctors in HK to write up a prescription, would I be able to fill it legally in the US or other markets?
Last edited by informeduser; 03-04-2010 at 06:43 AM.
Do I ever know about headaches! I suffered with chronic daily headaches from age 12 to about age 45... believe it or not! It's a tough way to live, I know - and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. (Well, maybe an ex-husband, ehhh... never mind!)
One thing that stood out to me about your post was the issue of rebound headaches. This occurs frequently with folks who are taking OTC meds (tylenol, advil, aleve, etc.) - not just with prescription meds. If you are taking these OTC drugs routinely, then a lot of your headaches are, most likely, rebound ones. It's AMAZING how much relief you may find if you cut back (or stop) the OTC meds. It's not easy to do, it does mean suffering out some pain without pain relievers. My doctor helped me out by putting me briefly on steroids (prednisone) to get me past the hurdle of the first week without OTC meds.
My doctor (a Harvard-educated neurologist, so he knew his 'stuff') advised me to never take any OTC more than 3 days any week. That way I could avoid the rebounding headaches. You may want to keep that in mind for you.
Amitryptyline is commonly used for tension headaches. I do not know if it is similar to Nortriptyline - as I never took that. Amitryptyline has been used for many years, and is considered fairly safe. At a low dose, it works on pain relief; at a higher dose, it is used as an anti-depressant. Like all anti-depressants, there IS a risk that you'll become more depressed during the first few weeks of taking it. If that happens, call the doctor - as you may need to stop. It is a drug that has to be tapered off slowly, to avoid the side effects of sudden withdrawal. Still, I think it's a good medication for headache prevention.
As for the Arcoxia, yes, it is generally used for arthritis, but it is also used for pain, period. Don't discount the arthritic effect, however - as you may very well need this kind of medication. You see, when a person has chronic tension headaches, there are physiological changes that occur in our neck over time. Generally, tension headaches begin in the neck. Those changes are not only in the muscles (as to begin with), but ultimately, in the bones, themselves. I'm almost twice your age (damn, I feel old!), so now, my neck is really showing the full effect of years of tension headaches: a reverse curve to my neck, advanced degenerative arthritis, bone spurs and compressed disks. Anyway, that stuff is starting for you now, at your age. So this medication may be a good one to take to treat what is also happening in your neck, as well as your head.
Fiorinal used to be frequently [i.e., in my opinion, overly] prescribed for women suffering from tension headaches - it was the doctors' usual way of dismissing those pesky problems. Trouble is, a good number of those patients became dependent on the fiorinal. It is a barbiturate, so it is habit-forming. I wouldn't take them myself - but if you do, please do so very sparingly. It can be a dangerous drug. (That's my take on it!)
With chronic pain, there is always a good risk of addiction occurring, so proceed very cautiously with any medication that may invite addiction.
I wish you all the best - if I can help in any other way, feel free to ask.
Thanks for your detailed reply.
Do you think that my tension headaches could pose a problem later on in life? You mention physiological changes that occur in the neck... do you think additional medical tests such as an MRI/CT would be beneficial? My previous doctors pretty much just listened to what I had to say and made their diagnoses accordingly without ordering any actual tests or blood work.
Originally Posted by informeduser
Oh yes, I do believe these headaches could not only continue, but create further issues, as a result. Chronic headaches typically DO affect the neck. I don't know how frequently you're having these headaches - but for me, it was DAILY - so the neck damage did begin by the time I was in my 20s.
I don't know if a doctor will go ahead with an expensive test like an MRI or CT scan - but at the very least, they may be willing to do an x-ray of your neck. The first signs I had of neck trouble showed up as a straightening of my neck when I was in my mid-20s. Physical therapy can help tremendously - I just wish I'd realized that back then, before the problem grew worse.
Anyone who is experiencing chronic tension headaches does deserve to have a battery of basic tests run on them, to rule out anything serious. Just because headaches are so common in society does not mean they can't be something more serious. I would certainly ask for tests to be done, starting with the x-rays (both head and neck), and also an EEG (brain waves) and CT scan of my head. (Perhaps they may be willing to do both the head and neck at one time.)
By the way, has any doctor substantiated for you WHY your headaches have been labelled as "tension" only? That's what I had assumed for years, and oftentimes, it needs more testing to determine exactly the type of headache is involved. (I went to the Graham Headache Clinic in Boston for 18 months of testing and treatment - and learned that I have 3 types of headaches, not 'just' tension, as presumed! Different types of headaches need different approaches in treatment.)
And don't dismiss the underlying causes of tension. There are oftentimes repressed emotions that create this kind of pain, not simply life's stressors. I found great help through counseling, to address the repressed pain and anger that resulted in physical pain. Also, there are FAR better ways to deal with tension than medicating it away, but they take time and effort: yoga, meditation, biofeedback, exercise, to name a few. If you can address those issues now, you may spare your body the physiological changes (like in the neck) from long-term headaches.
I recently moved to another state. My current doctor (an angel!) knows my life-long history of headaches, yet she ordered new tests to be run once again. In her opinion, you don't dismiss headaches as "JUST" headaches, just because a person has had a history of them. In doing this last battery of tests, that is when she found the extent of the neck problems that have occurred. Now, those neck issues are treated with physical therapy, exercise and massage - and had great results so far. No opiates, by the way... I keep those off the table for discussion!
Keep me posted... k?
I hope I'm not repeating what has already been said, but I came across this article while doing a search for alternate means to help myself.
My neck also has the reversed curve, and I suffer from degenerative arthritis, which gives me the headaches as well. My headaches started when I was 19, and I didn't know why until just a few years ago.
I went to the chiropractor with my mom a couple times, and for some reason she was telling her doctor about my headaches. Well, upon doing so he suggested that I start coming to him as well. That's when x-rays of my neck and back were taken and he found the problem. I started going to him twice a week, then after a few weeks it was cut down to once a week. The first few adjustments I would get a really bad migraine, but I would just call him and tell him and he'd have me come back in for another adjustment, and within the hour the migraine was gone.
I went to him for a year or so (while I could afford it) and I can say it truly did help. I almost never had a headache after the first couple weeks, unless the weather changed and I'd get a sinus headache.. heh The best part of all was I didn't have to take any kind of pain medication at all. Not OTC or otherwise, which never seemed to work for me anyway. Also, he had me to roll up a towel and put it under my neck, while lying flat on my back, for 3 to 5 minutes a day. I still do that, but I think that was to help with the curve and to get it to go back the way it's supposed to be.
I'm not sure if any of this information will help, but if the problem is in your neck, you may want to consider seeing a chiropractor. Also, try to find one that has the machine, instead of just doing manual adjustments, because that little machine feels great. I can't remember what it's called, but it's like a little jack hammer they take down your spine, and it moves everything back in place. If nothing else, you should at least go and get an x-ray so they can rule out causes, as well as hopefully finding causes.
Good luck, and I hope you rid yourself of those headaches soon. I can quite literally feel your pain. I'm hoping to go back to the chiropractor myself in the next couple of months.
Hi Ruth / Shari:
Thanks for your replies.
Ruth: How was the Graham Headache Clinic? I imagine the fees were quite a lot - hopefully your insurance company ate the bill. :P I am now a resident of Hong Kong where public health care is essentially free. Once I am in the system, I can get whatever tests I need done for virtually nothing but the downside is that I may have to persuade doctors that I really do need such tests performed. And since everything is free, waiting periods can sometimes be as long as 1 year, if not longer.
On the other hand, private clinics/doctors are all too happy to order tests and prescribe medications because I'd either have to foot the bill or have my insurance company take care of it - either way, they are getting paid. I'm now working on getting some good insurance into place so I can focus on getting high quality medical care.
Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. When you say you recently had a battery of tests performed, which tests were you referring to? I want to be on top of my headaches this year and will definitely have any and all needed tests to rule out any underlying conditions.
Shari: Hi! Have you tried alternative treatments like acupuncture? I'll definitely look into a chiropractor and see if it will help. My muscles have been naturally tight and tense from birth so that causes the headaches to come much more easily, especially when I am under stress.
I, myself, have not yet tried acupuncture. However, my chiropractor was recently licensed, like within the last 6 months, to do acupuncture and I plan on trying it very soon.
That being said, my mother has tried it and she said it really does help her. (she is far worse off than I am) She has to go to the chiropractor 2 to 3 times a week for her neck, back, and shoulder, and she does the acupuncture as she can afford it, since it's not covered on her insurance.
I would say definitely give it a try if you can. Mother says it's very relaxing, if nothing else, and even if you have a fear of needles there is nothing to fear with acupuncture if they know what they're doing. She said most of the time she doesn't even feel it, and it really does help with the pain, so I will definitely be trying it myself.
I hope you get everything worked out soon, with insurance and such. I can't imagine what you must be going through with all the waiting. Sorry I can't be more helpful, but I'll answer any questions I can.
Graham Headache Clinic was, for the most part, very good. What I had personally diagnosed as all "tension headaches" were actually a mix of some tension, some migraine, and some rebound headaches, from taking too much daily medication. The migraines were broken down into hormonal and situational. By diagnosing the "type" of headache, it was easier to find the best way to prevent and/or treat them. In other words, a migraine medication does not work on a tension headache, and vice versa.
Through their efforts, that's where I learned biofeedback, which helps tension headaches tremendously. (In a way, it's a form of meditation.) I was also put on some preventative meds, including inderol and amitryptyline. These are NOT narcotics, and do not cause any rebounding of more pain.
As for the recent tests, what my doctor did first was blood tests, then an x-ray, then a CT scan and an MRI. All was directed at not just my head, but my neck, as well. Only the MRI showed the full picture of the extent of the neck "damage." Then, physical therapy, exercise and massage has helped with that.
One HUGE pitfall that I had, if you haven't read my other postings around here, is that with chronic pain, we run the risk of abusing pain medications and becoming addicted. Contrary to what *some* folks may think, it IS possible to become addicted, even when taking something for legitimate pain. After years, that dependency grew until I was addicted to the pain meds, too - which I'd NEVER thought would happen to me. (Who does?!?) Today, I work a recovery program that encompasses not just my addiction, but chronic headaches and depression. (Depression is common with chronic pain patients, I'm afraid.)
If a doctor is reluctant to easily prescribe you pain meds, do know that they are trying to keep you away from this danger. The risk is high. I would exhaust every form of treatment available before I'd ever turn to a narcotic pain reliever. If your headaches truly are all tension headaches, there are countless (non-narcotic!) means of addressing tension. As hokey as it may sound, do not dismiss things like yoga and meditation, as they produce dramatic results. There are also many all-natural herbs that may help, from kava kava to valerian root. It's all too easy to turn to prescription painkillers (or benzodiazepenes, another huge danger) -- but that is often a "quick fix" to a far bigger problem.
Hi my name is Eduardo and I'm 20 yrs old male.I just have a couple of questions hopefully anyone could answered them. Like 2 weeks ago I went to the hospital because I felt like a tight feeling on both sides of my head usually above the ear it was a uncomtarble feeling it felt like someone was pulling my hair the doctor told me I had a tension headache just by me describing the symptoms that I had. He gave me ibuprofen it did work but it came back the headache. I been having headaches for the past 3 weeks sometimes I feel the tension headache on the side of my ear and then like it goes to the back of my head and keeps moving. The doctor told me is because I stay up late night because what I usually will do was play ps3 until 3 in the morning so I never had any sleep and sometimes I wouldn't eat until like in the night.I want to know if this is a tension headache I still feel it but I went to the doctor like 3 days ago and he gave me muscle relaxation and he did a x-Ray and I'm going for the results tomorrow plz someone help me what was your symptoms like?
I started having headaches about 25. Ran into a steel beam. Had them since. I am 70. Mine are 24/7-365 daily Chronic Tension headaches. I have had all the tests and drugs with many repeated several times. Are there any long term studies being done? All my doctors are at a loss as to what to do. I have lived from Alaska to Florida, California to Georgia and Idaho to Texas so environment does not matter. I also now have severe Tinnitus and all the other parts are wearing out. I have had Botox to neck surgeries, TMJ surgery to stimulators. All to no avail. Going with this pain for 45 years. help!
Originally Posted by informeduser
If you have had that many headaches, an MRI is not out of line. usually they come back clean, no problems in your head.
Are you sure they are tension headaches and not migraines?
Don't quote me on this, but I believed they changed the law and insurance companies cannot reject your application because you have a pre=existing condition.
If you think that you will continue to get the headaches and they are debilitating then getting insurance is something you really need to do. Try to find one that covers everything you think you will need. I do understand the financial thing. My premiums are over six hundred a month out of pocket. More than half my paycheck for the month. Having said that, they have covered hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of surgeries and medication. Look up insurances on line and see if you can find a plan that will fit your needs.
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