My journey with migraines and occipital neuralgia

I have been dealing with migraines since 2010. A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain that usually is on one side of the head. Migraines can cause disabling pain that can last anywhere from hours to days. My migraines are always on the right side of my head. They usually last anywhere from a half to three days. I usually experience symptoms such as, sensitivity to lights and sounds, nausea, and tingling in my head.
There are four stages of a migraine. You may not experience all four stages.
1. Pro-drome: this happens one or two days before a migraine. Symptoms include:
a. Constipation
b. Mood changes
c. Frequent yawning
d. Food cravings
e. Neck stiffness
f. Increased thirst

2. Aura: Aura are symptoms of the nervous system. They are visual disturbances such as flashing lights. Most people have migraines without auras. I have migraines where I have auras and sometimes I don’t. auras can last from 20 to 60 minutes. Some different auras include:
a. Visual changes
b. Vision loss
c. Pins and needles feelings
d. Difficulty speaking
e. Hearing noises or music
f. Limb weakness

3. The attack: without treating your migraine it can last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days. It all varies by person as do the symptoms and how often they can occur.

4. Post-drome: this is post migraine. You may feel drained even for 24 hours after the pain of the migraine goes away. You can still experience symptoms of:
a. Confusion
b. Moodiness
c. Dizziness
d. Weakness
e. Sensitivity to light and sound

I have been on many different migraine medications over the years with not much relief. I was still having more than 15 headaches or migraine days a month. My neurologist had talked to me many times about trying Botox. I recently had my first set of injections. She said it usually takes until after the second set to notice a major change and she was right. I am still having regular migraines. I am hopeful that this treatment will work and I can get off at least one or two of my current medications.

I was also diagnosed with occipital neuralgia. This is a common cause for headaches. Most don’t know what occipital neuralgia is, I sure didn’t. it is the two pairs of occipital neuralgia that lay near the second and third vertebrae of the neck. It causes pain at the base of the skull, and behind the eyes which spreads to the front and side of the head.
There are many symptoms and some mimic migraine symptoms so it can difficult to diagnose. It may even be diagnosed as migraines or cluster headaches. I was diagnosed with both before discovering it was occipital neuralgia. Some of the symptoms include:
• Aching pain at the base of neck
• Pain behind your eyes
• Pain usually only on one side
• Tender scalp
• Neck movements can increase the pain

Like mentioned earlier, my migraines the pain is on my right side. Begins at the base of my neck, side of my head and behind my right eye. My eye will also become blurry at times. I mentioned this condition to my neurologist and she agreed to do some testing to see if that was the issue.

So what causes occipital neuralgia? That depends on whether it is a primary or secondary headache. Secondary headaches have a underlining disease that may include:
• Tumor
• Infection
• Hemorrhage
• Trauma
• Systematic disease

There are so many causes for the neck tension caused by occipital neuralgia such as:
• Osteoarthritis in cervical spine
• Degenerative cervical spine changes
• Cervical disc disease
• Diabetes
• Infection
• Gout
• Blood vessel inflammation

There are different treatment plans because everyone is different and requires different treatments. Some of those treatments include:
• Physical therapy
• Massage
• Medications
• Nerve block
• Heat and rest

Surgery may even be necessary if the pain is not controlled with any other treatment. The surgery options include microvascular decompression or occipital nerve stimulation. If you consider surgery you should weigh all your options. Decide what is going to be best for you and your health.

This has been a long journey for me to get the relief that I need and want. I am beyond ready to no longer have the constant neck pain and headaches and migraines all the time. I am hoping we are able to find the right treatment program to provide the relief I need.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to this picture. I am not a medical professional. If you are having a medical emergency contact 911 immediately. This blog is for informational purposes only. If you believe you may have a medical issue contact your local medical provider.

2 thoughts on “My journey with migraines and occipital neuralgia

  1. I am a 66 year old female with occipital neuralgia. I’ve been dealing with my condition nearly 20 years. I’ve had nerve block injections, steroid injections, which help but for a very short period of time. I do not have this condition every day, there are times when I feel the pain on my right side of the neck, but it tolerable. I take tylenol. There are times especially during stressful periods, like now, I am debilitated with my condition. I feel very dizzy, lots of pain and over the years I have learned to sleep on my left side, as the thought of turning, getting dizzy and feeling the pain is terrible. Yes, I’ve been to neuro specialists who have confirmed my diagnosis. I do have medical factors that have contributed to my neuralgia. I wanted to share my journey because you are so young, and with children and I imagine its been hard. I’ve always had some degree of migraines in my 20s and 30s, but they dissipated. However, this occipital neuralgia is far worse. I do find that when I am calm and not stressed, my symptoms are diminished. I am going back to my neurologist. I am a very active still working individual as I have a wonderful job in the medical field. I stay busy as well with my 4 grandboys whom are quite young and keep me active. This is the first time i’ve ever written anyone about my condition. Life goes on, no matter the season, or reason for what ails us. I enjoyed your blog. I will read them from now on.

    Lucy Esquibel

    Liked by 2 people

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