Sunday, January 21, 2018

Occipital Neuralgia and More...

Confession time.

I have more than one chronic illness, as some of you know. What a lot of you don't know is exactly what it entails.

It's called Occipital Neuralgia, and it can be quite disabling.

The Occipital Neuralgia Awareness Ribbon.

Occipital neuralgia is basically a type of migraine, but it doesn't happen in the actual skull, it happens in the scalp. It is caused by four nerves, two on each side: the lesser occipital nerve which goes up the outside of the back part of the head, closer to the ears, and the greater occipital nerves, which go up the back of the head parallel to each side of the spine.

When those nerves get injured, compressed, and irritated, they can cause a permanent headache, as well as "zinging" and burning pain along each of the nerves - I liken it to an AC current. It goes one way, then the other, back and forth along the nerves. It goes up the back of the head through the scalp, across the top of the head, and into the forehead and behind the eyes. Sometimes only one side is affected, others, both are. 

Here's a diagram showing the location of the occipital nerves:



It can "flare" up, meaning instead of the usual amount of pain from it - a five to six in my case - it can go to a 10 or higher on the pain scale. Think flat on one's back, and not even prescription pain medications will put a dent in it.

According to www.hopkinsmedicine.org, occipital neuralgia can make the scalp so sensitive to touch that combing the hair, washing the hair, or laying on a pillow can be "nearly impossible" due to the amount of pain one has. 

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia include:



I have pretty much every symptom on that list, especially when I am in the middle of a flare up. I wear sunglasses even during a blizzard or hurricane outside, and I have a constant headache. I've had this since I was a child... I've learned how to avoid triggers for it over the years, and I've also learned that the instant things start going crazy to just lay down and think happy thoughts - after popping a few ASA pills. I can't take anything prescription wise due to my son, and anything other than ASA either doesn't work or gives me a bad reaction... So ASA it is, and yes, it does work. Sometimes. It brings things down to a manageable level.

Up until a few months ago, I was managing without a lot of intervention. I could function with the pain until I got a bad flare up, then I'd have to sleep it off with ice packs wrapped around my head in a dark room. 

However, around the middle of November, I started noticing that it was on almost a constant flare up. It seemed I couldn't go three days without being flat on my back for a few hours, or I was flaring almost constantly. I finally gave in and said I need help.

Hubby noted that when I say I need help with my occipital neuralgia, it's BAD... Bad enough that I was almost begging for something like morphine.

I hate prescription pain killers for the record, and narcotics in general - I had a bad reaction to morphine during labor with my son - so when I say I'll even take a shot of morphine or stronger, I am in so much pain that I am willing to do almost anything to stop it.... I can take a *LOT* before I get there. 

So I talked to my family doctor, and she made arrangements for me to try something different - a nerve block. What happens is the doctor injects some kind of local anesthesia into the nerves, and hopefully after the initial overall numbness wears off, the nerves have calmed down enough that they are not causing any zapping pains.

I saw the doctor for this eleven days ago, on January 10th, in Dartmouth. I am terrified of needles in general, despite getting tons of them in the last few years due to the diabetes, so of course, I was shaking like a leaf when I went in.

We went over my history then he did an exam of my neck, shoulders and head, with pokes and a LOT of pushing on various areas to see what hurt and what didn't. The instant he hit the greater occipital nerves, I yelped. It shot a HUGE zap along both of the nerves so painful that I saw stars. 

It's definitely occipital neuralgia. That was the test for it.

I got the nerve blocks that day. It hurt like heck going in, but after about a minute or so, I wasn't feeling much. 

After the second side was done, I sat up, caught my breath and moved my head around. 

Nothing. Not even a teeny zing.

It was the least amount of pain I had in my head in about 35 years. I felt fantastic!

You could have cracked me in the back of the head with a 2 by 4, and I probably wouldn't have felt it for a few hours after that!

Four hours was the tell... If it wore off and I got the zinging again, that particular nerve block wasn't going to work for me. I would have to get something different like cortisone. That hurts even more.... 

I was also given an order for acupuncture via physiotherapy. I'm now waiting for the call to go in and start the sessions. I can't wait!

Eleven days later... I'm still without the zapping. No dull ache. No pain in the eyes.

NOTHING.

I'm now wondering why I didn't do this sooner. This is freaking awesome! I can think without hurting for the first time in ages!

In fact, I am feeling so darn good that I've decided to catch up on a lot of things I've been neglecting for the last while... I've been putting off doing a lot of reorganizing and rearranging things in the kitchen. I finally got around to doing it this week, and the place looks amazing! 

I wanted a new office... I was right in the walkway in the cubby hole opposite the stairs. It was cramped, cluttered, drafty and my son could easily read over my shoulder... Not good! I was fed up and finally decided to switch things around.

My new office is in the corner of the kitchen, on the kitchen table. It's warmer, more private, and best of all, no stairs for the damn cat to run up and use as a platform for dive bombing. To my back is the eastern wall of the kitchen, and to my right is the northern wall. The table is facing the back of the house, I can see the entire room from here, including Amber's sleeping box with her blankie into it. 


My old Pentium 90 is still here, and still works. That's what's under the monitor. 

Amber isn't impressed. She can no longer sit on top of the monitor and look out the window. I said she can go suck cat litter if she doesn't like it. 

She does still sit on top of the monitor though, as y'all can see...


Me and my purple.... LOL

So I thought the dive bombing had come to an end without stairs to use as a platform.

WRONG.


What you are seeing is my printer on top of the old tower for my Vista system - the one that originally housed the hard drive that's now in my current system. This is to the direct left of my computer chair. In fact I was in the chair when I took this photo... Just to give everyone a perspective of how things are here. Behind the curtain in the back is the old computer area and stairway.

Anyway... Amber now likes to sit on the printer and look out the window.

However, she realized I was sitting here the other day, and the next thing I knew, I had a cat flying for my head.

Again.  *head desk*

I still say that crazy kitty is trying to kill me... I never thought I'd be dive bombed after moving the computer. Seriously.

Guess I shouldn't have told her to go suck cat litter, eh? *SIGH* 

Idiot cat.

Have a great week everyone, I'll be posting another update about the writing soon!

I leave you with another song by GHOST... "Ritual". Enjoy!!


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