Thursday, September 22, 2016

My "Unofficial" HEADACHE Survival Kit

Do you suffer from severe headaches? Migraines? The pain can be excruciating and debilitating at times. If you are a headache sufferer, it pays to be prepared! Check out my "Unofficial" Headache Survival Kit! 

My Headache History

The First Car Accident
My first car accident left me with whiplash and a concussion. After a 2-week stay in the hospital, numerous tests, physical therapy, and about 8 months of dizzy spells, fainting, vertigo, nausea, and horrible headaches/migraines, I was doing much better,


My First "Regular" Migraine

I vividly remember my first "regular" migraine. It was a couple of months after my third son was born, and I was home with my three young sons. All of a sudden it was like the room was dark gray, almost black, with an arc of flashing lights before my eyes. It was rather frightening! A major headache followed, and I later learned that I had experienced my first "regular" migraine. Several migraines later, I gave up caffeine as directed by my doctor, and the migraines gradually went away, 


The Fall from the Grapevine Swing 

I suffered similar severe symptoms again, much like after the first car accident. Gradually, under doctor's care and with treatment, I was doing much better, 


The Second Car Accident

The second car accident left me with Double Whiplash along with neck and back injuries. I was in Physical Therapy twice and under doctor's care for 2 years, and the pain continued. I experienced pounding headaches/migraines that at times felt like a sledge hammer was pounding me in the back of my head, causing dizzy spells and excruciating pain. Light and noise would set off these headaches, so I often sat or laid down in a dark room. When quiet wasn't possible, I often wore earplugs to help block out the noise. 

Finally, I was diagnosed with TMJ caused by the second car accident. My doctor told me that my pain was very justified, but that didn't make the pain go away. Added to the Physical Therapy was TMJ Treatment, Biofeedback, and finally Acupuncture!

Since my TMJ was not diagnosed until 2 years after the injury, my body had "healed wrong", so it took longer to get the pain under control.

Unfortunately, as a result, I have had major and minor flare-ups, and my TMJ comes back with a vengeance! My doctor says that's because my TMJ was a result of an accident and also because of the the late diagnosis. Each major episode is worse than the previous occurrence, lasting longer than the previous one. With the last major episode, there was so much inflammation that my left jaw came out of socket. I could barely open my mouth, and it caused unbearable pain even to talk. It is definitely not fun! 

My most recent "major relapse" was caused by rough waters in the Gulf and from Catching the Big One!

I never know when the severe headaches and migraines will strike again, so the main thing to remember is:

 Be Prepared!

My "Unofficial" Headache Survival Kit Contents:

Ear Plugs - Noise can set off a migraine. I keep a pair of Ear Plugs in my purse and travel bag at all times. These are good for loud movies, parties, and gatherings. They don't completely block out the noise, but they usually muffle it enough so that it is bearable. 

Mouth Splints/BraceI have 2 Mouth Splints/Braces that help take the pressure off my jaw/TMJ joints. The upper is always worn at night, and the lower is worn during the day. The goal is to gradually reduce the amount of time that the lower splint is worn. During high pain periods, however, the lower splint is worn basically all the time and only removed for meals. 

Sunglasses and a Hat - Bright lights and sunshine can set off a migraine. I keep a pair of dark sunglasses and a hat in my vehicle and extras at home.

Medication - Due to drug sensitivity and extreme side effects, Tylenol is the only medication I can take for pain, and I try not to take it often. I do, however, keep a travel bottle of Tylenol with me at all times. While it usually does not take the pain away, it does "take the edge off", making it more bearable.

Acupuncture - I go to Acupuncture at regular intervals. When I have a major pain flare-up, I call for an appointment for a session, and sometimes I go more often until the major pain is under control again. It works for me!

Massage - My TMJ doctor suggested professional massage to deal with the TMJ associated pain, and it has helped. 

Self Massage - My hand-held electrical massage tool is amazing! I also have non-electrical tools that work great. Also, my husband is quite a masseuse! 

Acupressure - Acupressure points for pain can be found online.

Hot Tub/Spa - I am fortunate to have a Hot Tub, and the warm water, along with the circulation, is very therapeutic. I like to do stretches that I learned in Physical Therapy while in my Spa.

Tens Unit - Tens Units help control pain, and they used to be very expensive, and only available by prescription. Mine was about $1,000; fortunately, my insurance covered it. Tens Units can now be found online, and some are less than $50.

Heat and cold - Moist heat has been recommended by my health care professionals, along with ice when needed. I have an electric Moist Heat Heating Pad and a Microwaveable Heating Pad, and both are helpful. A Physical Therapist told me that the best ice pack is a package of frozen vegetables, like peas or other small vegetables. Just label the package so it won't be consumed!

Pillow - Find a pillow (or pillows) that works for you. I ordered a special pillow for my head and also one to put under my knees, and they have helped my pain. Don't leave home without that special pillow!

Workouts - I cannot emphasize enough how beneficial workouts have been for me. At one point, a doctor sent me to a gym with a "RX" for fitness! While that was somewhat helpful, Pilates PT and the Pilates Wellness Programs have been the most beneficial for strengthening and reducing pain. I also practice Yoga, do pool workouts, and Fitness Walking. I am so longer the "Couch Potato" that I once was!

Music - Pachelbel was my favorite relaxation music when I was in the warm pool in Physical Therapy years ago, and I bought a CD. It is in my CD Player, ready for use, and I have other relaxation CDs nearby. YouTube has quite a variety of relaxation music, also. 

Biofeedback - I was in Biofeedback classes to help me deal with the pain after my second car accident, and the instructor made me copies of the tapes. I still listen to those as needed to help me relax my muscles to lessen the pain. Similar relaxation CDs are available online.

Journal - Good or bad, write it down!

Essential Oils - While I am new to Essential Oils, my research states that they are very beneficial.

B-R-E-A-T-H-E - Deep breathing is so beneficial. When you are stressed, injured, upset, etc., take a breath!

Devotional/Prayer - I read a Daily Devotional with scripture daily. Prayer is always included throughout the day. On the rough days, I remind myself how God has brought me through rough times in the past, and I know that this pain will pass, also!

Talk to someone - Sometimes it helps to talk about your pain. Find someone who understands what you are going through, and share experiences.

Find something you like to do, and do it! - When you are having a good day, ask yourself, "Is there something I can do when I have a headache?" I know reading is out, but I love to craft! I keep an easy craft ready to help divert my brain from the pain!

My "Headache Crafts"!

My list of "Nevers"

Never chew gum. 
Never drink from a straw.
Never open mouth wide.
Never eat chewy foods or hard foods.

Sign in my TMJ doctor's office

Note: I am not a doctor or a healthcare practitioner. I just want to share my experiences and what has worked for me in the hopes that someone else will be helped. Always consult your physician before trying any new health strategy!

Headache? Make your own "Unofficial" Headache Survival Kit!

Related posts:

Oh, My Aching Neck!                        Tarzan   


Catching the Big One!

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