I haven’t been writing actual from my mind blog posts recently, and for good reason. Over the past several years, my wife has experienced chronic pain. At first, we weren’t sure what was causing her migraines, but after 7-10 years of trying different treatments, drugs, surgeries, and method, we believe we’re at a solution.
Like I said, it all started out as really bad headaches that would put her in bed for long periods. It was really rough on her because we had two small boys and she worked from home, but she somehow managed, even though I wasn’t always as patient, understanding, or helpful as I should have been. She saw her doctor who prescribed her the expected medications like topomax. They seemed to work at first, but then the pain returned.
After some time experimenting with migraine medications, she moved on to chiropractic care. She went for adjustments up to four times a month at first, then backed down as she went along. Again, it seemed to help at first, but tapered off. The chiropractor had an MRI done at some point which showed how misaligned her neck was, but it didn’t look too bad, at first.
A year or so later, when the adjustments weren’t working, the chiropractor referred my wife to a neurologist who began her on various medications, again. And again, the meds showed little promise at first, then nothing. Another MRI revealed that Rachel’s spine was really jacked-up and she needed to have 4 vertebrae fused. “Oh, finally!” we thought. “This should take care of everything!”
We were wrong and so were the neurologist, neurosurgeon, chiropractor, and every other physician we had consulted for the last seven years. Her pain actually increased! We were angry, heartbroken, and depressed. But, to her credit, Rachel did not give up. She went back to the neurologist, tried more medications, even was referred to a pain specialist and took dozens of shots directly into her spine. When those had no effect, she tried deep tissue massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and a host of other alternative treatments. But, nothing worked!
Finally, the neurologist somehow figured out that Rachel might have something called occipital neuralgia, a condition in which the nerves in the back of your head become compressed or damaged, causing chronic pain. Why this wasn’t the first diagnosis, I don’t know. But, Rachel took this new information and ran with it, joining online groups such as the Occipital Neuralgia Support Group and gaining information and advice from them and associated doctors.
Finally, she had some answers, but not all of them. It took lots of time and research to get the answers we needed, but even then it was a struggle.
She found out that her nerves were likely being compressed by muscles or blood vessels in the back of her head and that a procedure called Nerve Decompression Surgery might be necessary. So, she went back to the neurologist who suggested they inject botox into the muscles and see if that might relieve the pressure and thereby relieve the pain. Of course, it didn’t work.
More research. More digging. More pain.
After many discussions online and a better idea of what was going on in the back of her head, Rachel discovered that there were surgeons who would perform decompression or excision of occipital nerves, but there were only a handful of them in the world. Further information finally led her to a plastic surgeon in Washington DC named Dr. Ivica Ducic at Capital Plastic Surgeons. “A plastic surgeon?” you ask. Let me explain. Plastic surgeons perform all kinds of skin tightening procedures like facelifts that change the positioning of the muscles and nerves. In several cases after patients had facelifts or similar procedures, they also mentioned not having headaches any more. This led naturally into research by some of these surgeons toward various nerve decompression and excision surgeries.
So, this all brings us up to the present. Tomorrow morning, we are driving to Washington DC to have my wife’s occipital nerves cut out. We hope and pray that this is the end of the line for the constant pain she deals with and I ask your prayers in this. There will be other hardships in life, but having my wife free from pain is a huge deal for us. Thanks for reading this personal history lesson. I hope mercies upon you…