Almost Slipped Through the Cracks

If someone you care for came to you complaining of repeated severe headaches, I’m sure you wouldn’t tell them to suck it up and be content with over-the-counter meds. You would tell them to seek professional help.

Aren’t you worth your own best advice?

One of my life’s goals – aside from encouraging migraine sufferers to continue on their path to significant pain relief – is to nudge the approximately 50% of severe headache sufferers who self-diagnose to stop practicing medicine without a license and to consult a doctor or headache specialist.

This might take you a while. It took at least 10 doctors at least as many years to even diagnose that the headaches I was suffering from, although presenting differently from the migraines my mother and grandmother suffered from, were, in fact, migraines. Just think – if I had given up, cursed the medical profession for not coming up with a diagnosis, and stopped looking for the doctor with the answers – I would be where I started off – still suffering!

Until I was diagnosed correctly, some of the causes given for the headaches I was suffering from were, for example, that I was allergic to school bus exhaust, that I should avoid eating pork, or that it was sinusitis (over and above the migraines, I was also suffering from sinusitis!). Even though I was quite discouraged by the lack of effectiveness of treating all these diagnoses and following prescriptions, I kept going to more doctors for more opinions until a wise doctor finally came up with the correct – though devastating diagnosis. 

The doctor who finally diagnosed the headaches I was suffering from as migraines pronounced the following opinion: “There is no cure for migraines.” At the time, neither he nor I realized that he hadn’t completed his sentence! After having witnessed my mother and grandmother suffer, I rebelled at the finality of that sentence – in both senses of the word.

But I refused to submit to the same fate as my predecessors. I did not want to continue dealing with more decades of pain for as long as my family members had. Until then, I had never been free of migraines: my life consisted of building toward an attack, suffering from one, and then dealing with the aftermath, only to have the cycle begin again. 

I was desperate to not only control the pain but to eliminate its recurrence. Thankfully, no matter how bad the pain became, I had the good instinct to never try any illegal or unprescribed substance nor exceed my prescribed dosage. 

As I was to find out later, exceeding my prescription could easily have caused medication-overuse headaches (‘MOH’) – a neurological disorder – which seems to be caused by the patient regularly exceeding the recommended dosage of a prescribed analgesic. 

The migraines are bad enough—you don’t need to complicate matters. This is where the list of ‘feel-good methods’ that I suggested you draw up a few columns ago will come in handy. I’m willing to bet that once you work through that entire list, you will either be headache-free without having overdosed on prescription meds or have fallen asleep from exhaustion. Don’t let yourself become discouraged if the doctor’s opinion doesn’t seem to work. The causes of headaches are numerous and complex. 

A former high school friend of mine told how she began suffering from excruciating headaches in her mid-thirties. She would wake up because of unbearable headaches. Years of consultations later with various specialists finally resulted in her being diagnosed with Horton’s headaches, which in her case appear in clusters of headaches over days or weeks before relief sets in. How can you guess what is the cause if you are living your same routine day after day, and some days you are fine, while others, you are shrieking from the intensity of the pain?

Thanks to having a specialist in the field for a doctor, my friend has an appropriate prescription for a preventive medication and some prescription for pain relief. After suffering for decades, she now has been headache-free for a few years. 

I do know one thing – if I had the misfortune of being diagnosed with those horribly painful headaches, I would take exactly the same approach as I did (and continue to do) against migraines, except I would focus on every action that strengthens the walls of my veins and arteries (adopting a regular exercise program does that, as does an improved diet). I’d do my research, draw up a list of helpful ideas, and consult with my medical doctor for his or her approval. After all, one of the doctors that recommends my method outline in my book, says she recommends it to most of her patients, since she opined it is a blueprint for healthy living. 


  • Carla Piringer

    Related to noted medical professionals, the author was afflicted with an inherited excruciating migraine condition, followed traditional medical and alternative therapies and has lived migraine-free for over 35 years. She shares her doctor-recommended method in her book, hoping to inspire sufferers to find significant pain relief.


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