Finding Some Relief

By Madeline Uretsky

It seems as though every summer for the last 5.5+ years I’ve tried some new treatment, plan, regimen, or whatever you want to call it. Some things have worked, and others have not. I’ve tried everything: natural and unnatural, medical and alternative, traditional and obscure. Except for one procedure that many people in the concussion community have tried. And it worked.

I discovered this procedure after reading posts on concussion/TBI Facebook groups, and talking with some friends who have tried it. For some, it works and changes their lives. For others, it does not, and it’s just another failed treatment. I was hesitant to try it for several reasons; I was nervous about the side effects and recovery time, medically intervening this many years later, and of course, fearing the needles.

With mixed reviews, and reassurance that it would not cause any adverse effects, I was optimistic and excited that it may work for me. I have an incredible trust in my neurosurgeon who has been my guide over the last 5.5+ years, so on June 12th, 2017, I underwent a bilateral greater occipital nerve block.

In simple terms, I had a few needles stuck in the back of my head while I was lying down on an operating room table. I was given Valium beforehand, and the procedure itself took no more than fifteen minutes. I was injected with steroids to help reduce the swelling of the tissue around the inflamed nerves in the back of my head that are partially responsible for my daily headaches.

I did not notice relief right away. I was so exhausted, and so out of it after the procedure that I couldn’t tell what was going on. The back of my head was numb from the anesthetic that I was given, so I had to wait for it to wear off before noticing a difference in pain.

Furthermore, a few days later, I had one of the worst days of pain in years. I was extremely dizzy, nauseous, light sensitive, weak, having alternating hot flashes and chills, and elevated head pain. But the next day, and every day since, my head has been better than ever. My constant daily headaches aren’t completely gone, but they are definitely less painful, and less frequent.

Particularly, in two situations:

  1. Hunger
    • My constant headache and head pressure becomes much worse when I’m hungry.

Since this procedure, my head hurts noticeably less when I become hungry.

  1. Changes in weather
    • When the barometric pressure drops, my constant headache and head pressure becomes much worse.
    • Rain, snow, sun, or more than twenty-degree temperature change in a day causes my symptoms to increase.

Lately, it’s just been the sun, even after several days of rain.

I went for a follow up two weeks later, and my doctor explained how the effects may last anywhere from three to six months, but may last forever. He said that once people break their pain cycle, that sometimes, the pain goes away completely. I’m optimistic, but realistic. My head pain is down a whole point on the checklist/scale, but it’s not at a zero.

He palpated the back of my head on and around the injection sites, and I felt nothing. No pain at all. I was in complete disbelief, but relief. I’ve only known pain for the last 5.5+ years, and now I’m back to some sense of normalcy. Being one of his longest-running patients, my doctor was ecstatic to see me feeling better. I follow up again in six months, and I’m hopeful that this could be the solution. I am so thankful that I tried this procedure, and I am looking forward to seeing how long the effects will last.

For More Information:

  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/nervous_system_disorders/therapeutic_pain_blocks_134,129/

  1. Ohio Health

http://www.medcentral.org/Main/OccipitalNerveBlock.aspx

 

nerveblock2

Leave a Reply