Discussions By Condition: Headache

Chronic dull headache (nearly a year). No diagnosis. Help me brainstorm my next move!

Posted In: Headache 1 Replies
  • Posted By: crystalwhiteoctagon
  • January 4, 2011
  • 11:47 PM

I’ve had a constant headache for nearly a year now. It began with a dull ache on a Monday, that tapered off after a couple days, then escalated over a couple more days to when I had tingling in my arms and a lot of pain. Went to the ER and received spinal tap, CT scan, MRI, and many blood tests. Discharged with migraine "diagnosis" and pain pills (which didn't work). For about two weeks the pain was pretty intense and I had some light sensitivity. After about two weeks it tapered off into a dull ache that has been in various places all over my head, but rarely in one consistent place.

It's now been a year and the pain has gotten neither better nor worse. It's generally annoying, but doesn't prevent me from working or performing. On a scale of 1 (no pain) to 10 (excruciating), the pain stays between 3 and 6 at the most. For some periods it may occasionally become "less bad" (between 2 and 4) but not "better." I do have very rare (once every month or so) moments that last less than a minute of less symptoms, or even almost clarity, but there is no pattern and they don't last.

I’ve seen a standard physician, an emergency room, neurologist, chiropractor, naturopathic doctor, physical therapists, and acupuncturist. While I do currently have a high anxiety level and am flirting with depression, this has largely set in over the last few months due to the persistent symptoms. Nothing specifically changed at the time that the symptoms began and cannot think of anything that changed at that time.

There have been some interesting changes as of late (listed below), so I thought I'd pick someone else's brain and see if they could help me with my own head.

Symptoms include

Chronic 24/7 headache. Dull pain, at times tingles. Never stabbing or debilitating, but also never ceasing. Most often aggravated by driving or loud noise.
Some upset stomach and indigestion (I notice some frequent burping...)
Panic attacks (perhaps three full on)
A few times (six or seven) have felt disoriented in the morning (knew name, birthday, social, phone number. Couldn’t recall what I did the previous day or it looked like outside my apartment.)
Ringing in ears (of course, I am a musician.

New symptoms in the last month or so

Mild panic episodes typically before entering full sleep
Sore arms around the biceps and most often right when I lay down to go to sleep. (perhaps a panic attack symptom?)
Great difficulty getting to sleep. Rarely sleep through the night
Cloudiness in head. Like my perception of everything is down to 80%. This could be due to the lack of sleep.

Treatments I’ve tried

Cutting gluten and dairy (two months)
Ibuprofen (generally ineffective)
Increased exercise
Increased hydration
Cutting caffeine
Cutting alcohol
Physical therapy (soft tissue massage, laser light therapy, spinal traction, stretching)
Cranio-sacral therapy
Various seizure and migraine medications prescribed by neurologist
Xanax (may have helped panic attacks, but made me feel like absolute crap)
I have gotten away from my apartment/room for a week with no change in symptoms.

Tests I’ve had (that came out negative)

CT scan
MRI of head (contrast and non-contrast)
Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
Multiple Sclerosis
Many blood tests

Problems or symptoms I HAVE NOT had. May help narrow down things. Full out fainting (though I have gotten light-headed)

Severe, stabbing pain of any kind.
Severe or stabbing chest pain (heart attack type).
Sinus infection or inflammation.
Complete numbness in any limbs
Difficulty speaking
Loose stool
Debilitating or stabbing pain
Loss of cognitive function or motor skills. Slurred speech.
High blood pressure (always normal, taken several times)
Low blood sugar (typically normal, taken several times)
Head injury or any history of headaches

Personal theories:

Perhaps digestive. Does anyone know of digestive problems that cause headaches?
The pain hasn't really gotten worse or changed in any meaningful way. That makes me think it could be a back or muscle thing.
I get the feeling the problem likely isn't above the neck. Many negative tests and ineffective medications have convinced me of that. I've had no x-rays below the neck, however...

Ask more questions, make suggestions, give me a pep talk. Anything helps!

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