A couple months ago, I had my first encounter with chronic pain in the form of migraines. It is an experience I would not wish upon even my worst enemy. Being a competitive athlete most of my life, I understood and could block out acute pain to fight through and stay out on the playing field. Of course, I had instances where the injury was so severe and I was put on the shelf, forced to be a cheerleader. Although I was not a fan of sitting on the sidelines, I knew when I was really hurt and needed to sit out. Whether it was a torn meniscus in my knee, a broken wrist, or even a torn labrum in my shoulder, there was one variable that was constant – I could immobilize these injuries as to not aggravate them any further. The problem with a migraine is that it’s near impossible to immobilize your eyes, head, and neck.
I had thought my past experience with pain would help me manage these chronic and persistent headaches. Well was I ever wrong. I felt lost and honestly had no idea what was going on. The pain was so debilitating that I couldn’t even stand up out of bed with my eyes open. The shift in heights that comes with getting up in the morning, the light, and even the presence of the slightest sound was enough to make me nauseous.
Crippled by this chronic headache, vulnerability began to set in. It’s enough to make one second-guess what they really know about pain. As I lay there in bed, just trying to block out the shooting pain that was radiating from the base of my neck straight into my right eye, I had an unsettling feeling of panic. The worst thoughts can fly through your head when your health and your body start to betray you. You start to wonder how did this happen? What if it never goes away? Do I have a brain tumor? And self-diagnosis through WebMD (NOT recommended!) would be enough to throw you over the anxiety edge.
Once I talked myself off the edge, I knew whom to call right away. I asked neurologist Dr. Mahyar Okhovat, at PMIR Medical Center, to help me identify what was triggering my migraines. After communicating my exact symptoms and triggers during a proper evaluation, the diagnosis was in. I had a pulled muscle in my neck. That muscle was putting immense pressure on my occipital nerve, causing the intense shooting pain I described earlier. Dr. Okhovat was able to pinpoint the exact site of irritation in the muscle and administer a series of trigger point injections. The trigger points were highly effective in reducing the inflammation around the nerve, and he recommended that I pursue alternative treatment options.
My next stop was a visit to Dr. Lindsey Mathews D.C, a chiropractor widely known for her corrective spine adjustments and soft tissue manipulation. In talking with Dr. Mathews she tailored an additional treatment plan that included adjustments, intense soft tissue manipulation, and cold laser therapy. The combination of the modalities was a perfect blend within my treatment plan. After 2-3 weeks of visits between both physicians, I was healthy, and most importantly migraine free.
The key component to my recovery was being involved in the process of pain relief. There was no way I was going to allow a bout with migraines impede my quality of life. During this process, I thought of myself as not just a patient, but as also as a student. Eliminating the possibility of experiencing that type of pain ever again was my main focus, so I made sure to be proactive in my treatment plan. I communicated with my doctors along way, by tracking my triggers and writing down detailed accounts of the extreme pain. I hope that my experience and path to health can provide direction for those suffering to a high quality, pain free life.