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The headache that never went away: Part 3 – Have you tried…?

Continuing from where we left off yesterday, here are other possible causes I’ve thought of for my headache as well as things I’ll probably try when I find the time and extra funds. Sorry if all this talk of headaches is giving those of you looking for weight-loss posts a headache, but this problem is affecting my life and my ability to live a healthy lifestyle, so I consider it relevant. Plus, it’s my blog, so I get to do what I want to. Neener, neener!

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

There’s no doubt that I get down when the weather is bad and winter in Indiana lasted about 20 years this season. I bought a special light to sit in front of for 10 minutes in the morning. It helped me feel a little less depressed, but my headache didn’t go away. Also, we finally kidnapped the sun back from the southern hemisphere this month, so I don’t think it’s SAD.

New office

I got my headache a month after I started a new job. I’m not going to blog about work because we’ve all heard stories of people being fired for that and God knows I need the health insurance. I will just say I’ve investigated possibilities and I don’t think it’s anything work-related, be it stress, lack of natural sunlight, or a toxic environment.

Eye strain

I stare at computer monitors all day, so maybe it’s eye strain? I adjusted my monitors (yes, plural) at work so they are at the correct ergonomic height. I also moved them so they are the same distance from my face and my eyes do not have to refocus between distances when I look from one screen to another. My work stations are sufficiently lit and no one else is having problems. Also, if that was the cause wouldn’t my headache go away on the weekends? Just to be safe, I bought a new home monitor this weekend with better resolution and contrast ratio. Think I can write it off as a medical expense?


I don’t always sit up straight at the computer. It’s possible a bad ergonomic position could be causing my neck, shoulders or back to tighten up and cause my pain. But again, if that was the case, wouldn’t the headache have gone away when I was traveling during the past few weekends? I’m trying to sit up straighter anyway since good posture can’t possibly hurt me.


Stress has been known to cause headaches, but I don’t feel that stressed right now. May was crazy, but I’m through most of that and my head still hurts. Plus, the headache started in February when I wasn’t that stressed either.


I had LASIK surgery back in June, so could it be that? I did some googling and I couldn’t find many reports of headache after LASIK. Some people got dry eyes which caused headaches, but there were no situations like mine. It also seems like that problem would have developed right away and not 9 months after the surgery. My vision is so good that I can see all the little leaves on the tress as I’m driving around town, so I don’t think it’s eye strain. I will probably schedule an eye appointment eventually to be sure, but this seems like a dead end.

Marrying the wrong man

Erin recently mentioned she got a headache after she married the wrong man. It sent her to the emergency room thinking she had a tumor. I haven’t married anyone recently, so it’s not that. (BTW, congrats on the engagement, Erin!)

Lack of exercise

I record all my exercise on a wall calendar. I flipped back to February right when I got the headache and that’s when my Pilates and weights sessions started appearing less and less. By the end of April I’d ditched both of those and I was just barely keeping up with my half-marathon training. After the race, I only ran 2 days in the next 3 weeks. God knows it’s hard enough to make myself exercise when I feel good. It’s significantly harder to make myself go to the gym or insert a Pilates DVD into the player when my head hurts all the time.

However, lack of exercise can only be hurting me, so I’m going to focus much more on this. I’m going to try to exercise in the mornings when I don’t feel as drained. After I’ve been conscious and in pain for 12 hours and worked a full day, I really don’t feel like going for a run. In fact, I’ve decided just to focus on work, exercise and keeping up with the blog. There really isn’t room for anything else in my life right now. I’ve exercised 3 out of the 4 last days, so this is going well.

Neti pot

My mom gave me a neti pot. For those of you unfamiliar with this device, it’s shaped sort of like a teapot. You fill it with water, tip your head, and pour the water through one nostril and let it stream out the other nostril. Yes, it is as comical as it sounds. Here’s a video!

It sometimes works for people with allergies. I don’t think my headache is allergies, but I will give it a try.

TMJ/Jaw clenching

My brother had TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disorder) awhile back, which means something goes funky with your jaw. It’s usually accompanied by popping and clicking, which I don’t have, so I doubt it’s that. I have noticed I sometimes clench or grind my teeth. Is that causing the headache or am I wearing down my enamel because of the pain? I’m not sure. I’m scheduled to see a dentist next month and I’ll pick his brain about my brain’s pain.

Gum chewing

I chew too much gum. I started chewing gum with xylitol because it helps prevent tooth decay. My dentist recommended it after he plugged 12 cavities and I confessed to how many sodas I drink. I sometimes pop a stick of gum to prevent me from eating. It’s stopped me from licking the batter in mixing bowls several times. However, I’m sure using the muscles in my head to chew for an extra hour or so a day is not helping my headache. I’m trying to cut back on the gum, but like the caffeine withdrawal, it’s hard.

Artificial sweeteners/Diet

I’ve heard artificial sweeteners cause headaches in some people. This has never been the case with me, so I’m not sure why something like that would come on suddenly, but I’m willing to consider it. I’ve cut back to two canned sodas a day. (Yes, I said “cut back.” You don’t want to know how much I used to drink.) I really don’t know how I could eliminate aspartame and Splenda from my diet entirely. This would be a huge step, getting rid of diet sodas and who knows what else in my diet, so I’m putting it off. So many foods have artificial ingredients that I’m not sure what I could eat if I had to cut this stuff out. I’m pretty sure my favorite yogurt would be off limits.

Which brings me to the next possibility: diet and food allergies. There are certain foods that have been known to trigger headaches in other people, such as yogurt and chocolate. Notice how it’s never asparagus or celery that screws you over? I really don’t want to eliminate yogurt from my diet because I like it so much. As with the artificial sweeteners, if I start cutting out everything that might be triggering my migraine, I won’t have much left to eat except for lettuce and zucchini. I don’t know how far I can go on that.

Other miscellaneous suggestions

Readers have also suggested I may be low on magnesium, suffering from depression, or have polycystic ovary disease. I’ll check into this.

Acupuncture and Chiropractors

These are two other possible treatments I’m looking into and will probably pursue, if only because they’ll probably make good blog material. If I let someone stick needles in my face, I’ll bring my camera along and try to get a picture of my pinhead impression for you.

As you can see, there are about 50 bazillion possible causes for headaches. And there are another 50 bazillion possible treatments. So, I’ve added 50 bazillion things to my to-do list which I shall be investigating for who knows how long, or at least until my headache goes away. If you have any thoughts, other possible causes or recommended treatments, the comments are open. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing their stories and kind words the past few days. It’s meant a lot to me to know I’m not the only one who has had to deal with chronic pain. Thanks for your support. My readers are the best.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Lou • May 29, 2008 at 8:32 am

You know it could well be the jaw clenching. I grind my teeth in my sleep and it caused me blinding headaches, I ended up getting a gum shield and it seems to have helped.

Also, have you had your wisdom teeth out? If not they could be hitting the nerve that goes through your jaw and that gives headaches too…

Feel better!


Patricia • May 29, 2008 at 8:38 am

Yikes! I had a headache last year that lasted for about 4 months. I went to the dr, had a cat scan, tried a detox/elimination diet………

You get the picture. The dr suggested that my headache could be caused by a virus and that it couldn’t really be treated but that it would eventually go away. It did go away, but man, I thought I was going to die in the meantime.

Hang in there PQ! It will get better. :)


Loey • May 29, 2008 at 8:47 am

1. Re: your workplace environment. Don’t rule it out… mold or poor air filtration are completely unnoticable. To know for certain, a professional needs to test the air quality (I’m a Chem. Engineer with a background in Enviro Engineering, and I do this sometimes for big industries…). There’s a decent chance that your workplace would cover the testing (the owner of the building they rent from) as it can worsen and severely impact productivity. Suggest it to them.

2. Re: You diet. If you go to a registered dietician or even a Naturopath they’ll put you on an elimination diet which eliminates (hence the name) all potential allergens from your diet for about two weeks to see if your symptoms clear up. If your headaches do go away, then foods will be added back systematically to determine the exact culprit and what quantity affects you. I’ve done it, and it sucked (see how honest I am?), but it did show me that almost any amount dairy fat causes my stomach to go into knots, and larger amounts of wheat products can do the same. So I eat wheat, but only in small amounts, and avoid most dairy fat (although I will eat full fat ice cream sometimes… I just awknowledge that I’ll be nauseated, so I keep it to a single scoop and suck up the tummy-ache). It really helped me, because I thought I was going to be in agony forever due to my stomach.

I’d also gone to an Acupuncturist for the same belly problem first, and it did nothing for me. But YMMV.


J. • May 29, 2008 at 8:49 am

In doing more research on magnesium, I read that a blood test is not the best way to see if you are deficient. It seems that it won’t tell whether there is magnesium is actually in the cells.


Thirkellgirl • May 29, 2008 at 9:10 am

I *really encourage you to try cutting out the Splenda for a week or two (and I completely sympathize, I know how huge that is. I was drinking a fair amount of decaf green tea sweetened with splenda, and had a chronic headache for weeks. I eventually isolated it to the Splenda. It’s worth a try!


S • May 29, 2008 at 9:11 am

I have been following your descriptions of your headaches (and the running and the book and all) — but as to the headaches with great sympathy. I second the TMJ concerns: I have worn a bite plate to sleep for the past 22 years (different ones!) and I never had the popping or clicking…but if I skip it two nights running I have a miserable headache for a week before the bite plate works again. Also, I had daily headaches (not to your extreme but daily) for months before my doctor finally tested Free T3 and Free T4 and put me on thyroid meds…now the headaches are a symptom to get the doses increased. I hope in the end that your headaches have a simple fix and go away soon.



Rah • May 29, 2008 at 9:13 am

PQ, you do a wonderful job of being proactive in their own care. However, I’d like to suggest that you take the records you have kept, plus any additional ideas, and seek treatment at a pain center. Then a medical professional would be in charge of ruling in/out various factors and combinations of factors. I had a friend who was on disability for years until he went to a pain center. It took a while, but eventually he was actually able to return to full time employment, pain free. Dr. Internet can be helpful, but it seems needless for you to continue suffering this way. Warm regards and good wishes for quick relief!


psychsarah • May 29, 2008 at 9:14 am

Hey PQ-Once you’ve exhausted the medical route, you could look into behavioural/psychological treatments for chronic pain (just to be clear-this is definitely NOT to say your pain isn’t real!!) There is empirical evidence that some headaches can be ameliorated with biofeedback, relaxation, and other cognitive-behavioural strategies. Just something to think about … Take care-pain is exhausting and frustrating, especially when it comes without an explanation.


JourneyGirl • May 29, 2008 at 9:36 am

I’m not going to offer a diagnosis or suggestions because from what you’ve said previously you are sick of hearing it. But I will say this: that thing with the Neti pot was the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. The woman in the video was so creepy too! I’m definitely going to look into this more. I’m intrigued! Feel better!


crazylady • May 29, 2008 at 9:36 am

I’ll try to keep this short as I’m sure you will be getting a ton of comments! I suffered and still do on and off from very bad headaches which come from tension in my neck and shoulder muscles. In the beginning my neck etc was never sore, it was just the headaches. Pain moving in waves from the back of my head and out through my forehead/eyes making it near impossible to concentrate on anything. The only tablets that would give me any relief was Syndol which contain codeine and are for tension headaches. But after a while they started making me very drowsy so I can only take them when going to bed or if I know I don’t need to be awake for a few hours!! I find ibuprofen can help dull the pain a bit but not take it away.

So during a particularly bad bout of this just before last xmas I went to a physiotherapist that was recommended to me and it worked wonders. She really worked on my neck/shoulder muscles and gave me two simple exercises that I can do everyday or whenever I need to at my desk/home or wherever.

I too work at a computer all day. I know I have poor posture and I have no doubt this is a major contributing factor to my problem. Plus if my problem flares up, being at home for the weekend doesn’t necessarily help as the muscles are inflamed and take time to settle down.

God was this supposed to be short! Sorry. Anyway just thought my experience might be of some help. If you want to email me to find out more or just chat about it feel free. It just strikes me that if this started happening when your pilates etc decreased, the pilates may have been helping to stretch those muscles and keep the tension from building up in them… or I could also be completely and utterly wrong seen as I’m a computer tech and not a doctor or expert of any kind :)


S • May 29, 2008 at 9:37 am


I read this article re reactive Hypoglycemia right after reading your entry today…guess I’m now sensitive to anything about headaches. Good luck.


KNH • May 29, 2008 at 9:44 am

The neti pot is the old-school version of a product called Simply Saline. It’s sterile but has no preservatives, and it’s fantastic during allergy season.

I used to work for the company that makes it, but that’s not why I use the product; I wouldn’t use many of their products. But this one is really worth it.


Susan • May 29, 2008 at 9:47 am

Hm. I’m not sure how chronic headache relates to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which is a hormonal disorder. I have PCOS and I read up on it all the time. As far as I know, headache isn’t a symptom. I would rule out PCOS unless you have other PCOS-specific symptoms like irregular periods, acne, dandruff, excess body and facial hair, etc. If you have these symptomes, I would definitely meet with a doctor.

Hormones can definitely cause headaches though. My only thought there would be the birth control pill. I know for sure the birth control pill causes me headaches (and thousands of others at least).

I just remembered that I had a chronic headache once! It lasted about two weeks. It wasn’t insanely painful, but it was there all the time and drove me nuts. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first, so I turned to thinking about food. I realized the headache coincided with me eating something new. I had been eating LUNA bars for lunch for two weeks, and my headache had been hanging around for the same time. So I stopped eating LUNA bars and the headache went away!

I have no idea what it is about LUNA bars that makes my head hurt, but I won’t be eating them anytime soon. It’s a shame because I have loved LUNA bars for a long time. It is only recently that they have caused headaches for me.

I have to second and third and fourth the suggestion that you might want to try eliminating artificial sweeteners from your diet for a while. I know you don’t want to! I know you want your diet soda and yogurt! I totally understand. But it could be a contributing factor to your headache. And sometimes, something that your body has tolerated for years can all of the sudden cause problems.

I sure am glad you are blogging about this. Even though it isn’t directly weight-loss related, it certainly affects your efforts to lose weight and stay in shape.

Oh! I have heard marvelous things about accupuncture, so if you do try it, please let us know how it goes!


Laura • May 29, 2008 at 9:49 am

I hope you can find some relief from your headache soon – I think keeping detailed records is really crucial in getting to the bottom of problems.

Going to a specific clinic for pain management is a great idea though too – they might have some techniques to help you out.

I have had great experiences with a chiropractor – she is younger and has a master’s degree in neuroscience, so she does a lot of research and is very careful. She graduated from the Palmer Collge of Chiropractic and that school is very well known all over the US…


valerie • May 29, 2008 at 9:50 am

I know you don’t want to hear it, but two things stick out from your last two posts – caffeine and artificial sweeteners. You’re having trouble giving them up because you think they’re not the cause of your headache, but what if they are?


Kim • May 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few months and am so sorry to hear about your headaches!

And of course I have to add my two cents…I had a low-grade headache for several weeks. Finally, last week, one area of my mouth became sensitive to hot/cold. I went to the dentist – I need a root canal – years of grinding my teeth left me with “fractured molars with multiple faultlines” which led to nerve damage and my headaches. He said my body doesn’t know how to process that pain and it often results in headaches.

I hope yours is this easy to fix, not that a root canal is painless – but it’s much better than months of severe headache pain!


CarolinaGirl • May 29, 2008 at 9:57 am

I’ve heard that dehydration can also cause headaches. That may not be the problem, but just thought I’d chime in! I enjoy your blog :)


Kris • May 29, 2008 at 10:06 am

It could be many things – but it all adds up to stress! Destress Destress Destress! You have given us great advice…now listen to it!!!!



Wendy • May 29, 2008 at 10:10 am

When I read your second post about the headaches I immediately thought of TMJ/grinding/clenching and then you mentioned it at the end. I spent most of my senior year of high school and early freshman year of college with migraines…I thought I chipped a tooth, they fixed it and it magically got chipped again. I was actually grinding it away. I got a night guard that I sleep with and the headaches disappeared. Might be worth considering.


Mymsie • May 29, 2008 at 10:11 am

I have a friend her swears by her neti pot. Every time I hear about them, my eyes water!


Lisa • May 29, 2008 at 10:33 am

I’m sorry that you’re hurting.

If you want to follow up on the tooth grinding possibility, you might buy a mouth guard at the drugstore– they run around $15 for the kind you heat in boiling water then bite down on (no, no mouth burns) to make the thing fit.


Kyle • May 29, 2008 at 10:40 am

Ouch, sounds rough PQ. I really hope you find a solution for this ASAP. I have no good advice. The only thing that ever caused me chronic pain was grinding my teeth and it looks like you already have that as an option. As soon as I got a mouth guard it solved all my problems. I hope it’s that simple for you too!


Nicole • May 29, 2008 at 10:41 am

Check into chiropractic care. It could be that your neck is out of place. I know that when mine is, and I get an adjustment, the headaches go away almost instantly as soon as everything’s back where it’s supposed to be!


disgruntled • May 29, 2008 at 10:52 am

Re giving up coffee & diet sodas – I wasn’t able to give up coffee completely but I gave it up at work by the simple trick of filling my work coffee mug with cold water instead. My (simple) brain was fooled enough by the act of drinking out of the mug to think it had had some caffeine (and the water perked me up too) so I didn’t get the real need to sleep in the afternoons

Oh, and always schedule meetings for 2-3pm when you’re at your lowest ebb – you won’t get anything useful done anyway so you might as well have that meeting then


Laura N • May 29, 2008 at 11:04 am

Oh girl, there is just so much here! Maybe you should go live on a deserted island for a while. It’s no more crazy than all the other stuff that’s been suggested. Hang in there. You’ll get it figured out.

I loved the comment “because they’ll make good blog material.” You know you have a blogging problem when…. Ha, me too.


Helen • May 29, 2008 at 11:10 am

Good luck with whatever else you try and I hope that headache is gone sooner than soon!


Lisa • May 29, 2008 at 11:31 am

You’ve tried so many good things and people have made great suggestions.

If you decide to try going without additives and food chemicals and you’re flummoxed as to what to eat, feel free to e-mail me. I eat that way to battle acid reflux (and I think it helps), and I HATE to cook, so I am a master of the quick, healthy but yummy meal. I’d be happy to offer suggestions to get you through. Hang in there!


Flora • May 29, 2008 at 11:47 am

You might consider this spooky-woo-woo tactics, but my family has always had good results with homeopathy, for everything from earaches to eye injuries to a developmental disorder characterized by violent fits. It’s good for everything, but especially nebulous disorders with no clear cause like headaches and insomnia because it often succeeds where other medical treatments fail. The thing with homeopathy is that over-the-counter treatments don’t work because it takes a practitioner with years and years of training to pick the right remedy. If you want to try this, email me for a referral to a good practitioner who cured my nasty, near-hopeless case of insomnia.

I use the neti pot when I’m sick, and I find that it helps a lot. Supposedly in India people use them every day, just like toothbrushes. If your headaches are caused, directly or indirectly, by sinus pressure, this could very well be your solution.


ann • May 29, 2008 at 11:54 am

definitely have your dentist check on your jaw alignment. did you have any dental work done around the time the headaches started? I’ve had semi-chronic headaches for about 2 years. I didn’t think it was TMJ because my jaw doesn’t pop or click. BUT it turns out that I had a crown made that wasn’t precise, and it threw off my lower jaw alignment just enough that the tooth-grinding I’ve done all my life was suddenly causing headaches in the back of my jaw and sinuses. So, that tooth is getting reworked (more fun than headaches!)

Good luck.


Melsky • May 29, 2008 at 12:17 pm

I have no idea what could be causing your headaches but I hope you feel better soon.


deanna • May 29, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Holy Crap – you have tried and thought of EVERYTHING!! I hope there is a resolution soon. I can’t even imagine what you are going through on a daily basis, plus training to run 13.1 miles, a book tour, TV appearance, without complaining? Hello!! You are amazing!


Debbi • May 29, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I have no solutions or suggestions, only sympathy and my best wishes for a swift solution.


Lorelei • May 29, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Yowzah – what a comprehensive list! I have not used it for headaches specifically, but I have had really good experiences with acupuncture for muscle tension. Even if you don’t dig the woo-woo aspects, the purely physical parts were extremely effective for me. Good luck!


Suzi • May 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

My husband had a headache for three months when he was cutting down on Mt. Dew. The withdrawl from caffiene was causing it since he was cutting down from 5 liters a day. Sick, I know.

Hw finally went cold turkey but was in horrible pain for 4 days then it started to get better.

Hope you feel better soon. Is it weird to be on eBay :) I was looking for a good deal on your book.


paige • May 29, 2008 at 1:26 pm

I mentioned the horrendous headaches I was having to my dentist. He filed one of my back teeth . . . and the pain went away. He said that sometimes things shift . . . and when they do, the offset can travel and cause pain. The pain had been horrendous. Not a little headache — I had to lie down in a dark room and take strong meds (which the GP MD prescribed because he didn’t know what it was). I never had that pain again (after the dental work).

I don’t know about Splenda as I use Stevia.


Kate • May 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

The neurologist who lectures us on headaches (I’m a medical student) tells his patients to try eliminating caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and any pain killers they may currently be taking (they can cause rebound headaches). It sounds excruciating to me, but he and his patients swear by it.


vicky • May 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I started having a headaches 3 days ago and couldn’t get rid of it. Then I remembered that i bought a pack of gum and have been chewing lately.

I totally forgot that the Aspartme was giving me headaches a year ago. Last year I gave up diet sodas and gum. Whenever I forget and have some, that darn headache comes right back!


DInah Soar • May 29, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Does the headache/pain keep you awake at night?

While the headache never goes away completely is it somewhat better in the morning and gets progressively worse as the day wears on?

If it does, I’m betting it is the tension/stress type headache. I used to get them and was miserable for several years.

When my doctor said they were because of stress I got mad because I “wasn’t stressed”…but I was…I just wasn’t aware of it…

I discovered that I was tightening up my muscles in my shoulders, neck and jaw…I stayed tense…when I’d drive I would clench the steering wheel…and I was always in a rush even if there was no reason to be…I put myself under the gun all the time… None of this was obvious to me until I really made of point of examining my body postures.

My headaches got better when I began to deliberately relax using some biofeedback techniques. Like you I’d tried everything…and nothing even began to touch the headache…the pain was miserably intense.

Soooo…if the answers to my questions are yes, you may want to consider learning how to relax…get some info on biofeedback techniques and give them a try…..forget that you don’t feel uptight…you may possibly be and are unaware…after all…your life has changed drastically and with your book coming out and everything else going on it has impacted your life tremendously.

And you’ve had this headache for so long, that just the stress of enduring it and having to continue with daily routines has only served to aggravate your condition if it is indeed stress induced.

One last thought…I do know people who suffered from headaches due to misalignment of the spine…they saw a chiropractor and finally got relief after exhausting all other avenues with no result.

Lastly, I’m not a doctor so just offering some information that helped me…

Best wishes for finding relief….


Brandi • May 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I think someone already mentioned hypoglycemia. I second this. Have you had your blood sugars checked?

I have had constant headaches since I was a young child. I just recently started monitoring my blood sugars (I’m hypoglycemic) and for the first time in years I went a day or two without a headache. That was weird, I kept thinking something was missing or wrong. I have slacked off on the glucose monitoring and I still have the headaches everyday, so I had better start monitoring mine again.


Dom • May 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm

I really feel for you with your headache, and I’m seriously impressed that you are continuing to exercise, you deserve more than praise for that, you rock!!

I suffered from stress headaches from TMJ dysfunction. Basically, any time I was under stress, i would clench my jaw, followed by my neck and then my shoulders or grind my teeth at night. I was made a gum shield by a dentist, and this stopped the grinding at night (sexay!), and had to learn consciously to unclench my jaw, and work on my posture. That was the hard part, because I didn’t even realised i was stressed and doing it for a while. And also embarrassing when you see what my profession is in the next paragraph! Unfortunately, I also had to seriously limit chewing gum, but I replaced it with sugar-free mints and don’t miss it at all!

I’m a physio and do acupuncture for pain relief, but I’m the wrong side of the Atlantic to be able to help you out, unfortunately. In my experience, it is something that either works really well, or doesn’t work at all. I found what you said about posture really interesting, as this is a lot of people’s perception of what ‘posture’ means. Obviously I haven’t met you, and so this might be totally wrong, but if your neck posture is ‘dodgy’ when you are sitting at the computer, it’s likely to be like that when you are travelling, walking, sitting in a bar drinking wine, sitting on a train, etc etc.

I really hope you find an answer. You really deserve to because you’ve really approached this problem in such a pro-active way!


Beckie • May 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

This maybe going out on a limb but there is a defect in the heart called PFO or a hole in the heart that causes migraines, my friend just had surgery for this and it has helped. http://headaches.about.com/od/migrainediseas1/a/migraine_pfo.htm


Hillary • May 29, 2008 at 3:23 pm

I can totally feel your pain – what a trooper you are! (as you if really have a choice though, eh?!) My first thought (and I didn’t see this on your list) is that you’re not drinking enough water. All the coffee, iced tea & soda you drink dehydrates you – you need to be drinking 2 glasses of water for every 8 oz. to make up for it. But I suggest going cold turkey from all other drinks and only drinking water…white-knuckle it for awhile, drink TONS of water and give your body a chance to flush everything out. Artificial sweeters aren’t great either, and cutting out soda will help cut down on those too! Water is so, SO important. I promise that even if the headache doesn’t get much better, you’ll feel much healthier and notice a difference. Good luck!


Erin • May 29, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Thank you my dear. :)

Sinuses are usually culprit for me!


karen • May 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Hi, I’ve never posted before but can relate to your pain! I suffer from chronic head aches and it is no fun! I remember a time about five years ago when I felt like my head was going to explode. I started having some vision disturbances and went to a specialist. Turns out I had IIH(Idiopathic intracranial hyper tension) or PSD(pseudotumor cerebri) The short of it is too much spinal fluid that adds pressure to your head. It’s worth checking out.

It’s no fun being in constant pain, I hope you get to the bottom of this.


annie • May 29, 2008 at 4:24 pm

I too had tons of headaches. All the time. Went thru a ton of things…stress, food, eyes, allergies. Then, I went to a new age doctor and stoped all diet soda and all aspertame, splenda, the entire deal. Cold turkey. I know it SUCKED. But I did it. (Now I use stevia and agave).

Anyway, my headaches stopped. All gone!!! My once a month migranes stopped. All stopped. If I get one, its so linked to stress or going too long without eating. And the minute I calm down, or eat, or sleep a little, it’s gone.

The same for my friend. He was a 4 a day diet coker. Massive headaches. Just lived with em. Then stopped the d.c. cold turkey. Now he’s fine. He has one diet coke maybe once a month.

The truth is…it’s toxic. It really is. It eats at your brain. And its better in the long run to not eat it anyway.

But, in time. Thanks for the honesty. I enjoy reading you.


sarah j • May 29, 2008 at 4:34 pm

I was diagnosed with TMJ and my chiropractor has worked wonders at helping to release the tension, reallign my jaw, etc. While I didn’t get headaches, I could feel an overall improvement in my head/neck. I have found that my chiropractor (and I have an especially great one) has really been able to help me avoid more invasive stuff. Two cents. Problaby worth less. But, there it is. Good luck. I wish there was stuff your loyal fan club could do to help alleviate the stress of dealing with all of this. If you think of anything, I’m sure the volunteers would line up!


cm • May 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

The artificial sweetener AND the fact that that’s never affected you before but does now both make intuitive sense to me, and here’s why:

I, too, transitioned from someone who’d never dream of exercising into someone who’s a long-distance runner and now general distance endurance sport person. Before I ran, I could drink a Diet Coke or two (never occurred to me to drink more) and it didn’t affect me much. Sometimes I got a little headache if I had a lot.

But I pretty much gave it up. It was never a habit with me. Still, once my body changed (not so much weight loss, just all-over change–weight the same but some sizes smaller) I began to notice, and to talk with other runners about how alcohol, sugar, hangovers, almost anything hit me so much harder and faster than it used to. This is because runners in particular have extraordinary circulation. You just feel things–good and bad–a lot more acutely than you did before.

Now, a whole 12 oz of Diet Coke or an aspartame-filled yogurt would surely mean an afternoon of woozy groaning, and head-holding, no question. As would sugar-free gum. Both of them, I’d be a mess.

So, *maybe* this is it, maybe it’s not. Just saying there are a couple reasons that resonate with me why if it is artificial sweeteners, it’s happening to you now and didn’t before.

And, anyway, maybe consider using moderate amounts of regular sugar or honey. Not cakes and pies, not soda, not corn syrup, but a bit of the white stuff in the coffee or the yogurt (Stonyfield is sweetened with sugar)–I’m about to say something shocking–won’t kill you. 15 calories a teaspoon, and you’re really fit and athletic now, so you burn that stirring it in, or breathing for half an hour. Or rice syrup, or Stevia (tastes too artificial to me, but other people like.) Molasses, etc etc, you get the idea. Ask at the health food store. But sugar isn’t that bad either . . .

my $.02. hope something works for you soon!


cm • May 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm

oh,and i thought you were supposed to use saline in the neti pot. per the NYT article of some months ago following on the Oprah neti segment.

good luck!


anji • May 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Here’s a few things, take it for what it’s worth if you like.

During my wrist injury, my physio actually treated my neck to lessen the pain in the wrists. Nerves were being pinched, I tried to do their exercises and I noticed fewer headaches after this. If your posture is as bad as mine, it can definitely affect your head and give you pain. It took about five sessions before I really noticed a difference which helped both my head and my wrist all with one kind of treatment. The neck muscles were overworking certain areas, and straining to keep my head back. It’s kind of like the saying, it takes more muscles to frown than to smile — the same is true with your neck. it takes more muscles to strain your neck in an awkward position than to use the neutral position which gives less pain.

By the way, at this point – I’m going to throw this at ya because I don’t know if you know this or not but – I used to be a graphic designer/web designer (aka, Graphics Diva!) and I had multiple monitors… tried multiple ways of arranging my cubicle, multiple chairs, multiple freakin’ everything. My workplace brought in an ergonomist to do an evaluation and it was good. In Canada (or Ontario), workplaces can be charged if they don’t provide a safe environment which is why mine did. Now – in the states? No idear! But it’s something to look into. if a local university has a physiotherapy program, you could maybe ask if a student could come in and do an assessment and they may do it for free or next to nothing as part of their practical experience…

Okies… next! TMJ doesn’t always mean popping and clicking and whatever. Mine was evident by a sore jaw in the morning when I’d grind my teeth at night and some tension-type headaches which I thought was stress… instead, my jaw wasn’t properly aligned… the therapy was to get some braces which thankfully aligned them enough to give me less pain. Braces weren’t covered for me at the time but – if it’s medically necessary, some insurance plans will cover it. There was also a surgery they could have done which would have cracked my jaw and lengthened it a bit but thankfully the braces were enough to do the trip. Saved myself $5000, cha ching! Anyways…. just thought I’d throw those two things out.

Also, I mentioned in an email about lighting… if you can convince your workplace to try it out in your area (and if you have the flourescent lighting), see if they can switch to the natural light bulb. If they only cover your area, it could be about 6-10 bulbs max. Everyone at my workplace benefited from this as some people were having repeated migrains. Also, we turned out every second flourescent bulb which made the atmoshpere much nicer. Offices are over-lit and besides, it saves some hydro (er, electricity for you american folk!) so maybe your workplace could actually see a savings. The savings offset the cost of our bulbs in the long-run.

I know you have a gazillion other messages to read so I’ll stop annoying you by now.


K • May 29, 2008 at 5:36 pm

The clenching of jaws sounds very familiar – I do it when I’m stressed and headaches generally follow. I don’t have a mouthguard; I just try not to do it. But then my headaches aren’t very frequent.

I find chewing gum makes me more likely to clench – it’s as if my jaw muscles are overtensed. In fact, that’s probaly exactly what it is. It is a pain, though, because like you I use the gum to ward off snacking.

Personally, I have not found that giving up caffeine does a thing for headaches – in fact, sometimes a small amount of caffeine can help (it’s often found in combination headache tablets for that reason). It does help me sleep better, though, and if I’m well-rested I’m less likely to get a headache.

Note all of this is in the first person. Not meant as advice. Really ;)

I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I hope it all goes away soon.


VerseFameBeauty • May 29, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Artificial sweeteners almost always give me a headache, even in small doses. But then, they always have and thus I don’t consume much (of course). It is very possible to develop an allergy over time, though– especially if you are overexposed to something.

My grandfather went on the Atkins diet and ate a two-egg omelette or scrambled eggs every single day for breakfast for over two years… then all of a sudden developed an extensive, painful/itchy rash. Turns out he’d developed an allergy to egg yolks! Moral of the story is, don’t rule out crazy food allergies.

And I still say get a good chiropractor! Your posture could certainly be causing your headache, and no, it wouldn’t necessarily go away on the weekends or when traveling. In fact, I have a similar issue (I just don’t have headaches all the time) and often my headaches will appear or super-intensify when I’m on vacation, just a detoxing process I guess. :-\

Good luck… hope you feel better soon!!


Katharine • May 29, 2008 at 5:57 pm

PQ, I’ll offer no suggestions. But I will wish for some health-care provider somewhere to come up with a treatment for you that works. I’m sorry you’re in pain.


Cindy • May 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I won’t add much to the head ache portion of your entry, as there is already so much here. The thing that caught my attention is your comment on the possible diet changes and wondering what you would eat if you cut out artificial sweeteners and ingredients. I encourage you to pursue this avenue even if it doesn’t impact your head aches immediately. I believe it will have a positive impact on your over all health and well-being, including energy level and vitality. REAL FOOD just works better. I lost 130 pounds without using artificial sweeteners (other than the occasional diet Coke when eating in a restaurant). I eat plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, along with a little maple syrup to perk up that sour yogurt taste (real maple syrup, organically produced). A little goes a LONG way! There are a ton of good books on eating healthy that have nothing to do with weight loss, per se, but that doesn’t mean they are not for us. Good eating is good eating and most advice applies to anyone who wants to feel better, get more energy from the foods they eat, and maintain a healthy, active body. There is some cooking and food prep involved, but not a lot more than you’ve been blogging about. After a while, you might find that other foods just aren’t as satisfying any more, as your body gets used to nutrient-dense, flavorful foods. It becomes a lifestyle change, really. I bake now almost weekly because I can make killer muffins that are good for me, too. I make soup every week and eat it for lunch on a daily basis. Yogurt is a staple…etc… and all this from someone who used to live in the McDonald’s drive-thru. If you are interested, I can share a list of books to check out (either you or your amazing mom—I’d love to meet her one day. I work in child care and every child deserves a mum who loves them the way your mum obviously loves you!!!).

Anyway… feel better soon. We are all rooting for you!


Lisa • May 29, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Hey PQ,

I will not try to diagnose you as I do not have an MD however, I will tell you that I had great success with both acupuncture and chiropractors for severe neck and shoulder pain which in turn was causing my head to ache. While expensive it was well worth it! You should check with your insurer as often benefits are provided. With regard to chiropractic care I found a chiropractor with a holistic approach where he used more natural movements as opposed to the traditional “cracking”. Good luck what ever you should choose!


BrightAngel • May 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I was looking for you to list the possibility of

GASP ! ! ! too much exercise, or possibly too much high-impact exercise like marathon training and/or participation…but I didn’t see it…Did I somehow miss your consideration of that possibility?


Sally T • May 29, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Being new to your blog, I don’t know where you are, but wacky weather is often a factor in my headaches. Barometer rises, I get a headache; barometer falls, same thing. And don’t even get me started on seasonal allergies, which trigger more of the same for me (not so much sneezing as headache & ache-all-over symptoms). I do empathize with you, & I hope you get some relief soon!


John • May 29, 2008 at 7:10 pm

I think it’s because of the guys playing all that foosball in the kitchen. jk


Jaimie • May 29, 2008 at 7:50 pm


I just purchased/read your book a few weeks ago, it was a good read!

I’ve been far too lazy to read through all of the comments from people, so I apologize if this is a repeat.

One treatment you may be interested in is called Reiki. (http://www.reiki.org/faq/WhatIsReiki.html)

I started having migraines after a neck injury at the age of 6 and Reiki was one way to help me feel marginally better.

I also did a study with a hospital that involved taking certain foods out of my diet one at a time for 10 days and then peeing in a cup. I got $10 to pee in a cup! It doesn’t take much to excite a 7 year old ;) If I remember correctly they did: chocolate, cheese and bananas. I’m sure there were more foods, but I don’t remember at this point. I so know what you mean about how much it sucks to take out the good stuff!

If you can think of a good way to get rid of a 2.5 year old back pain, do let me know!



Amy • May 29, 2008 at 8:22 pm

WoW! This list of comments is as overwhelming as your list of unsuccessful headache remedies.

It is possible to have swelling and compression of the ethmoid nerve in the sinuses. The treatment is surgery to remove bony tissue to relieve the compression. This would be done by a specialist ENT, an otolaryngologist. This problem doesn’t show up on imaging. Here is the link to a medical case story. The gentleman had a 6 year headache in the same position as yours, tried every medical avenue, and ended up on depression therapy before the cure. A medical student found it.


I would also recommend an eye exam. However, I think it is an unlikely culprit, because your complaint is 24/7 and eyestrain isn’t a 24/7 problem. Pseudotumor cerebri(an ocular/neurology condition posted by previous commentor) is a problem for young overweight females. THAT AIN’T YOU NO MORE!!

Best wishes for relief.


Matmos • May 29, 2008 at 10:03 pm

No advice, you have plenty of that! Just want to say so sorry to hear about your headache, that sucks, I hope you get a break from it soon because if there is anything more wearing than dull pain it is dull neverending pain which taxes the soul.


Karen • May 29, 2008 at 10:16 pm

You are going to be fine. You have a lot going on right now and it is stressful. You are doing a great job handling it. Take good care of yourself. You are going to be fine.


Denise • May 29, 2008 at 10:49 pm

I’m too lazy to read all the suggestions so there may be repeats here:

1. I did develop a sensitivity to Nutrasweet. You could try soft drinks with a different sweetener in them for a while to see if that helps–that’s a painless way to test.

2. Clenching: I developed a tendency at one point to clench my jaw. The best remedy for me, since I do it at night, has been a nightly sleep relaxation CD to help me drop off. In fact I’m doing it again because I’m in med school and studying for boards so I’m about to hit PLAY again for a few days.

3. Miscellaneous dietary something: You may have to replace some things in your diet for a few days at a time and log the results. You could replace the dairy yogurt with Silk Soy yogurt, for example, the soft drinks with herbal tea, but one thing at a time.

4. Yoga helps a lot of tension-related things and did a bunch for the shoulder tension I had when I first moved to Wisconsin. Some of it has never really come back the same way. It made me more aware of my body and able to drop my shoulders when they were messed up. It’s sort of like exercise, painless, and reasonably inexpensive. It has very few side effects.

5. Physical therapy: I had to adjust my posture to protect my shoulders from tendinitis, and physical therapists helped me do it. Sometimes I don’t do my exercises and I have to start over again, but on the whole it has helped.

PHEW! So much to try. But it will be worth it. If you find a way not to wake up in pain you will find it is worth WHATEVER you have to do to maintain it.


samiam • May 30, 2008 at 12:55 am

Sorry to read bout your troubles! a couple of quick points-

A)Have you checked your hormone levels? a coworker of mine has a daughter that gets frequent debilitating migraines and recently went on a birth control pill that is designed for patients who suffer from frequen migraines. Another coworker’s wife had a migrane that lasted months and was also found to be hormone related.

B) I often use something similiar to a netti pot, I suffer from some pretty bad allergies and it helps a bit, I think it has helped me cut down on my number of sinus infections. Sounds like you’ve alredy ruled that out though.

C) Blood sugar- I also have been diagnosed w/subclinical reactive hypoglycemia, the article posted above is excellent. Having had untold number of blood sugr headaches I would be shocked if that ws a factor in your case having read your description.


eve • May 30, 2008 at 1:04 am

Okay, so you have probably already tried this, but massaging the fleshy spot between your thumb and index finger helps me. I generally have headaches related to my menstrual (sp?) cycle, but I have not had a constant one for that long. I will say when I cycle off of caffeine that kills me for a few days, so I decided that it hurt worse to be off of it. But I try to limit it to two coffee drinks a day and I generally avoid soda and feel okay. I also don’t drink coffee past about 3 pm – I clench my jaws and grind my teeth, so I wear a mouthguard every night, otherwise it gives me headaches. Alcohol in the evening would also intensify the headaches and grinding.

I did also recently switch to just using Splenda for artificial sweetner and haven’t had any issues with that. Good luck – it just sounds horrible.


budicca • May 30, 2008 at 2:43 am

In part one you mentioned dead twin in forehead. Did you consider a LIVE parasitic twin??? Alien invader? An ant/fly/spider crawled in your nose and laid eggs? I’m sure it’s not those…

Seriously, sending best thoughts and wishes for you to banish that headache.

BTW, who won the bike?


Sarah • May 30, 2008 at 3:37 am

Hmmmm. Sorry to hear you are suffering! I have allergy migraines and they are the pits. This, however, is a pre-med’s sort of game.

Nutrasweet or Aspartame would be more likely culprits than our friend Splenda…sometimes, if we consume a lot of something (or are exposed to a lot of something) our bodies just decide that they’ve had enough. It is possible you’ve developed a sensitivity to one or more of those products (not the same as an allergy–although allergies can develop as well). Maybe you could try subbing flavored seltzer waters for the diet soda?

Have you started eating anything new lately? You might want to check labels for MSG, which in small doses is usually okay, but in larger doses can cause headaches and other symptoms. You would be surprised what all it is added to–even peanuts and popcorn. Some people are more sensitive than others. Gov’t law says it must be spelled out as “monosodium glutamate” on labels. Also, say, if you knew you were sensitive to MSG, you would likely want to stay away from things like autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed yeast which are also sources of free glutamates?

Are you lactose intolerant? If you are you might also be sensitive to gluten, which is another common protein with a similar structure.

Do you eat a lot of fish, or farmed fish? Maybe your mercury levels are too high…that can cause headaches.

I assume you’ve had your blood checked for various vitamin deficiencies?

You might also want to get your eyes checked again…the new cameras that can photograph the retina can reveal all sorts of interesting things from tiny tumors to diabetes…even before they show up in other tests.

Or maybe you’ve developed some scar tissue from the lasik? That could cause headaches.

Also, my eye doc told me that with lasik, sometimes people choose not to be corrected to superman vision because it’s as much strain on the eyes as reading through distance only glasses all the time…that’s why when people’s prescriptions get to be about -3 or so (nearsightedness) they often add a +1 in making the lenses multifocal to reduce strain. You could pick up some +1 readers at the drug store for a few dollars and try wearing them whenever you’re at your computer, piano, reading books, etc. That definitely might be it.

Have you had any neck or back injuries? Those can cause all sorts of damage with swelling, fluid retention, pressure, different tissue or bone damage…all of which could cause a chronic headache. Even a small jolt, from sledding or something, could cause a minute fracture…

What about a bone density scan? Losing a lot of weight can mess with your hormones…similarly being overweight can mess with hormones. If your cycle was ever out of whack due to weight issues, the estrogen deficiency acts just like early menopause and can deteriorate bone…ultimately leading to breakdown, which could cause headaches. This is sometimes seen in anorexics/bulimics/and I think super-exercisers who lose their periods for an extended amount of time.

Those are my only ideas tonight…my first 37 were ruled out when I went back and read your posts. Good luck!


PastaQueen • May 30, 2008 at 7:05 am

Christy won the bike. I announced it in an earlier post.


Erin • May 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

ugh! I’m sorry you’re going through this. But I do hope you figure out the cause and find relief soon!

One of my coworkers has been coughing for FIVE months. It’s not even a deep cough, just the even-more-annoying-to-coworkers high cough.


Joanne • May 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I’d keep looking at the stressors in your life. I just read your book (in like two seconds, it was excellent, I loved it) and I can’t help but think that preparing for the half marathon, getting a book published, slowing down on your exercise and nervousness about that causing a weight gain, keeping up with your blog and work, along with the LONGEST freaking winter ever (I live in Indianapolis, too) might have something to do with it. Have you thought about massage? I forget if you mentioned that. I am keeping you and your head in my prayers, I hope you feel better soon.


Emily • May 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Hmmm….interesting. I used to drink diet coke and can’t now without the headache. I never thought it could be due to being healthier.

Maybe that’s why alcohol hits me harder? I always thought it was because I was getting old. :)


Emily • May 30, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Well, darn. My comments never show up under the post I’m trying to reply to.


MB • May 30, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I hope you get some relief soon. It sounds like you are considering all the options and possible causes.

My friend took numerous Excedrin for years because of constant headaches and a doctor finally convinced him to stop taking them because they were causing more head pain than they were helping it.

It is so frustrating when the doctors start with the trial and error method of treatment.

It is sad you haven’t been able to truly enjoy the fruits of your labor because of the head pain. I hope you find out the cause and get rid of that headache soon (like yesterday).


scone • May 31, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Hi hon, just a few thoughts.

1. Facial trauma: Evidently that’s what caused my pain, or started it at least. Long story.

2. Botox: many migraineurs have had good results with this. Little pinprick shots along your eyebrows and at the back of the neck. It relaxes the muscles, reducing inflammation.

3. Magnesium/zinc/calcium: people have mentioned this before, but the combo pill is best, IMO. It’s really helped my chronic pain.

All the best, dear.


MizAngie • May 31, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Maybe you’re grinding your teeth at night. Try a mouthpiece…


M.R. • May 31, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Poor baby.

I’m sure this has already been assessed — but this isn’t sinuses is it?


fatbridesmaid • June 1, 2008 at 12:17 am

This might sound really stupid, but I get headaches when my hair is too long. Something about grows and covers my neck always gives me headaches. Maybe because it is thick and heavy and makes me overheat? I dunno, I hope you feel better soon though!


Susan • June 1, 2008 at 7:31 pm

A friend of mine had a seizure one morning while we were chatting. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and was back home the next day. For 4 years, she suffered from constant migraines and went to every specialist, tried every drug, did every suggestion imaginable to stop the pain. She eventually lost her job and had to be declared disabled in order to earn an income.

What happened after 4 years? She was in a horrific car accident and flipped her car multiple times, managing to live through the accident without any major injuries. Hasn’t suffered from a headache since.

You never know…it could go away on its own or something completely unrelated could happen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it ends soon.


Two Wishes • June 3, 2008 at 5:32 am

Hi there! First off, I just discovered your blog today. Can’t remember what link led me here — I’ve been on a blog binge the last couple of days — but it’s love at first sight. Can’t wait to read more from you!

Usually it takes me longer to de-lurk, but sadly headaches are a subject with which I’m well familiar. I’ve had a headache for the last few YEARS — chronic migraines that are chronic enough to be more or less constant. Haven’t worked in two years. And despite many doctors, many tests, and many medications, my results haven’t been much better than yours.

But the resource I most recommend is a book called “Heal Your Headache,” by Stephen Buchholz (one of my 3 neurologists). It provides the best information on headaches that I’ve seen. For example, this is the only source I’ve come across that describes the interaction of your basic tolerance level and specific triggers. Your tolerance changes, which is why a particular trigger (food, weather, medications, etc.) may be fine one week and mean a certain migraine the next. Thus, the way to heal headaches is to raise your tolerance and/or avoid triggers.

Unfortunately, tolerance-raising is easier said than done, so most of his approach is on the avoiding-triggers front. And that’s a killer, because it turns out *everything* is a trigger!! (Most people know MSG, Nutrasweet, and caffeine, maybe lunch meat… But cheese? Citrus fruit? Yogurt? Almonds and peanut butter? Chocolate? Bananas? Turns out my ENTIRE DIET was migraine triggers!!) Even if you don’t follow the book’s trigger-avoidance-diet to the letter, reading it will help you understand so much better what’s going on in your painful brain. (In other words, I still eat forbidden foods MUCH too often. But at least, when my head pounds 30 minutes later, I now know why!)


di • June 3, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Hi, I’m *really* new around here, so be kind to me! I’m with those folk who are pushing the artificial sweeteners as the culprit of your headache. Like some of the people that have already commented, I was fine with artificial sweeteners for a very long time, like YEARS, then very suddenly I was getting headaches just like you describe. My mother insisted that the artificial sweeteners were to blame as she herself can’t eat them, then my sister got on the bandwagon and told me they have been linked to brain cancer. I figured it would be worth giving them up just to find out for sure.

Indeed, the very second I stopped all artificial sweeteners my headache disappeared. I was SO disappointed because diet cola was how I got my caffeine and I was a wreck without it. Which is how I started taking one caffeine tablet a day (marketed as ‘No Doz’ in Oz and as ‘Pro Plus’ in the UK). It also meant saying goodbye to all the most convenient packaged diet foods and introducing water water water, fruit fruit fruit.

These days I can’t go anywhere near artificial sweeteners, even one mouthful makes me feel ill.


Marsha • June 3, 2008 at 10:41 pm

I’ve just found your blog. You are quite funny.

I know that you have had a million people suggest reasons for your headaches. I feel for you. I get cluster headaches and if there was a way I could open up my skull to relieve the pain, I would.

That being said, have you thought of a sensitivity to MSG. The sweeetner in Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke are a kind of MSG. It is something to consider. I have a friend who saw a let up (not completely gone) in her migraines when she cut it out of her diet.


Stacy • June 3, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I also have TMJ and have used a mouth guard off and on for about 6yrs. Usually at night, but when it gets bad, I wear it during the day too. I have had a headache for two weeks now, so I will be interested to see what works for you. I hope mine doesn’t last as long as yours has.


lulu • June 4, 2008 at 4:32 am

Headaches are miserable. Hope it lifts soon. Apart from any medical remedies, maybe you need a completely self-indulgent holiday with absolutely no brainwork or effort, just fun?


Nicole • June 4, 2008 at 9:02 am

My sympathy…I hope that it works out. I had my bite out of alingment recently because of a slightly long new crown (under 24 hours) but it was hell and I can see how the ongoing pain of jaw stress builds. check the dentist as serious option with all the others…


stlwtr • June 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm

I don’t typically get headaches but several years ago a got one that would not go away. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but it turned out to be so simple it pissed me off….It was my gum chewing. I told my Dr. that chewing gum appeared to be giving me headaches (thinking this meant I had some rare disease or illness that he could fix) and he told me “So stop chewing gum”. I think I actually saw red for a moment… Anything but that! I love, love, love chewing gum. It is still difficult for me. I stare longingly at the gum section by the register in the grocery store (sadly, I am not exaggerating)… I cave, just like an addict, now and then and will go on a gum chewing spree for a few days and then…the headache…oh god, the headache. It usually takes 4 to 5 days for it to go away once I stop.

By the way, who won the bike? (just kidding)


Jennifer Katz • June 4, 2008 at 6:38 pm

BINGO!! Halfway down your list, I figured out exactly what’s causing your headaches. THE NETI POT!! Trust me on tis one, you’re not using it correctly. It happened to me. If you don’t bend over and breathe out of your nose to push out the remaining liquid, you’ll get a sinus infection. I had the meanest headaches for days from using the neti pot incorrectly.


PastaQueen • June 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

I haven’t used the neti pot yet, so it’s not that. Thanks for playing though!


Sara • July 17, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I’m sure you’re tired of suggestions and may have heard this already, but you might want to talk to your neurologist about Fibromyalgia. There are no blood tests to check for it, but chronic pain (including headaches) and fatigue are part of it. You may want to also talk to a physical therapist about myofascial pain. For mr Lyrica and regular visits with my physical therapist help.

Thanks for the great book and best of luck on the headache.


becky • November 25, 2009 at 10:22 pm

I had a migraine for 5 months, none of the migraine drugs worked for me. My neurologist finally told me to take Petadolex, = butterburr extract (www.migraineaid.com) and it worked. I had to taper off another drug and go on the Petadolex gradually, so in a month or so the headaches eased off and they only returned if I forgot a dose. If you are still having your headache, good luck!


Kristi • February 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Your story sounds so familiar to me. I hope that you find a combination of things that helps you to feel better.

For me, what seemed to help the most was that I stopped drinking or eating anything with artificial sweetener. I limit my coffee to one cup a day (and it does have caffeine but is low acid). I stopped drinking soda. I went on gabentin (Neurontin) as a migraine preventative (prescribed by my neurologist). Maxalt is my migraine drug—but I have not had to take one in years.

I’ve had a hard plastic bite guard since junior high for TMJ (I grind and clench my teeth). Even after wearing the guard at night, I sometimes wake up with a tension headache (but that happens rarely).

I have scoliosis, so that throws my body’s alignment off too (and is often linked with TMJ). I do physical therapy exercises to strengthen my core.

Oh yeah. And I’m allergic to everything on the planet. So I take a nasal steroid (Nasonex), OTC Zyrtec, and Singulair (b/c I have mild asthma). The only headaches I get now are sinus headaches, and those usually only occur with a weather change.


meghan • February 27, 2010 at 7:29 am

HI there,
A few years ago I had the same problem, a headache that lasted more than 3 months. However I did find the cure. After MRI’s and CAT scans that proved there was nothing wrong and steroids and a bounty of pain killers that did not work I went and did some research on my own. What I finally ended up doing was avoiding any artifical anything from my diet. Whether it was a sweetner, color or preseravative. Within 3 days my headache was gone. It is a hard path to follow. You would be amazed at what is contained in many foods including baked goods, canned products etc. Read every label and if does not inlcude a natural product do not eat. ANother bonus to this plan is you will end up losing weight. I wish you best. I have been where you are it is no fun.


Kelly K. • March 14, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Hi there. I just found your blog today. It’s interesting that you mention your headache. I feel your pain. Literally. I got a headache about 3pm on 10/26/07 and I still have it. Some days are better than others, but it’s always there. I have tried most of the treatments you have tried: MRI, stress-reducing, allergies, chiropractor, migraine drugs, dentists, oral surgeons, specialty dentists, herbalists, ENT, had blood work done. I’ve changed my diet. I’ve cut out soda. I’ve had a mouth guard made. I think acupuncture is my next step. It’s nice to know I am not alone. Maybe some day we will be pain free. If you ever find out the cause of yours, please let me know.


Jennifer Carroll • April 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I collect fat girl memoirs and the like. Found your book at a used book store and am *LOVING IT*! It is unusual to read about a woman who has small boobs, is (was) fat, AND also is over 5’6″ tall! I am 5’11” 44B and weigh 314lbs. I needed to read your book right now- perfect for the transition I am undergoing (Self-employment WOOHOO!) as my schedule will be incredibly flexible and am looking forward to trying to like to cook as well as riding my bike more often. I am doing a 5K this Saturday (my 3rd in 3 yrs) and would like to jog one eventually!
I would greatly appreciate it if I could get you to autograph my book sometime. I am in the Indianapolis area once a month. Wow… maybe even get a bite to eat! LOL Take care!


Jodi F. • August 31, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I was doing my typical search on the internet about headaches when I found your post today. First of all I am very sorry that you are in pain for so long. I can totally relate. I am suffering from a headache for a little over 4 yrs.
Mine also started when I began a desk job. I have gone through everything you have with trying to find answers. Neuro, pcp, infectious disease, MRI CAT scans, allergy testing, physical therapy and no answers. I tried accupuncture and had some relief and relaxation, but it never went away. I did homeopathy and had the same results. I know my headache gets worse when I eat bread, pasta, cake, etc. I have eliminated these from my diet, but it still never went away! I am disgusted.

I found some information to be slightly promising lately and I wanted to share it with you. My mom works with a woman who had a headache for a couple of years. She was treated for chronic lymes disease with fluconazole. A lot of doctors do not recognize lymes disease as being chronic, but apparently it can be. Also, you can have a negative blood test and still have it. She is now headache free after years. Fluconazole treats fungus related problems, so I was wondering if it could possibly be a fungus, mold, etc. caused by the ventilation in our offices???? I have since moved on from that job, but I guess it can go into your body and grow.

I am going to get some fluconazole and try it I think.

Best wishes


Karen P. • October 18, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I see you posted this a long time ago, so I hope you have your headache sorted out by now. I feel your pain PQ. I thought things were going well until the insurance company decided they didn’t want to pay for my triptans anymore. I am trying Dr. Bucholtz’s Heal Your Headache Program which recommends giving up the triptans cold turkey, then taking everything good out of your diet and adding in a preventative. I already have all kinds of food allergies so already gave up wheat, dairy, nuts, eggs and legumes. Now adding coffee, chocolate and citrus to the list. Hope it works.

I am glad you are able to turn your struggles into good copy. I am also a writer, and most of my writer friends have migraines. We suspect that our left-sided headaches have destroyed my left brain so all I can do anymore is make up stories.

Best of luck with your writing and your headaches!


Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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