All in My Head: Living With Chronic Daily Headache

WebMD Live Events Transcript

For 15 years, author Paula Kamen has done battle with the chronic pain of a daily headache. She shares her struggle to find relief through a variety of sources, both Western and alternative medicine. She joined us on May 19, 2005.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD Live, Paula. Thank you for joining us today.

KAMEN:
Thank you for having me.

MODERATOR:
You write about a headache you've had for 15 years. What started it?

KAMEN:
It's basically a neurological dysfunction called chronic daily headache. It started with me at the age of 24. That's a typical age of onset. Chronic headache problems typically begin in the teens or 20s. It's basically a genetic disease with environmental triggers.

MODERATOR:
What does it feel like? On a scale of 1 to 10, how painful is it?

KAMEN:
It's at a moderate level of pain all the time -- 24/7. So it's usually about a 4 or 5. It's usually not as severe as a typical full-blown migraine, but enough to make everything more difficult. I compare it to going through life with the parking brake on, there's just always this underlying struggle to everything.

MODERATOR:
What's it like right now?

KAMEN:
It's probably a good day today, about a 3.

"Like almost everybody, I started with over-the-counter medications like Excedrin, aspirin and Tylenol. But a problem is that those can actually make daily headaches worse in the long run, and cause what are called rebound headaches."

MEMBER QUESTION:
How do you cope every day, knowing that you will have this pain?

KAMEN:
It's not easy; every day is a struggle. But I have found ways to reduce my levels of emotional and physical suffering as much as possible. Part of that is having balance -- getting enough sleep, exercising, not doing too much. I have to accept that I have the pain in order to work around it. I also accept that I work now at a slower pace and that's OK.

I have also found some alternative medicine methods that help to take the edge off sometimes. They are not cure-alls, but are tools that I have at my disposal. That includes massage, acupuncture, yoga, hot and cold packs, a mixture of lavender and peppermint oil on the temples, and a few other things. But we're all unique and we have to find for ourselves what works and doesn't work.

MODERATOR:
You talk about trying all kinds of therapies -- traditional Western and Eastern. Tell us more about your search for relief. What did you start with?

KAMEN:
Like almost everybody, I started with over-the-counter medications like Excedrin, aspirin and Tylenol. But a problem is that those can actually make daily headaches worse in the long run, and cause what are called rebound headaches. They can desensitize the brain's natural painkillers over time. They are fine to take once in awhile, but not constantly -- like every four hours as I was doing.




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