So, late in March someone sent me a link to a lecture about types of headaches. Don’t remember the details. What I do remember is that I, who have had frequent headaches since forever, never actually looked into headaches as a phenomenon because (I guess) it just seemed like part of life. I mean, I remember as a teenager finally realizing that the reason most people don’t carry Excedrin with them all the time is because they’re not worried about getting a headache, and the reason they’re not worried is because they just aren’t going to get one.
I’m the sort of person who looks up stuff. But then, of course, the internet wasn’t a Thing until recently, so it used to be harder to look stuff up. So that’s probably why I never actually did any research into headaches.
Anyway. It turns out that about 2% of most populations suffer from chronic headache conditions. I mean the kind that aren’t dangerous, just unpleasant. (Very unpleasant.) The three most common types of headaches are migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches. The kind that I have seem to be frequent episodic tension-type headaches plus some (mild) migraines. My headaches used to have typical triggers: lack of sleep, glare, whatever. A few years ago, they decoupled from any noticeable trigger and became a lot more frequent. Excedrin remained fairly effective in treatment, most of the time, so that was how I managed.
Tension-type headaches should be re-named because tension as such has nothing to do with it, at least for me. During highly stressful periods of my life, thankfully rare, I have fewer headaches, not more.
Here’s the good news: it turns out that one thing that can make headache conditions become a lot worse is taking a lot of painkillers. Taking painkillers for headaches more than fifteen days a month can cause rebound headaches, if you are already suffering from a headache condition. Well, I was taking headache medication a lot more than fifteen times a month — more like 28 days a month. I was waking up with headaches most days and often having them come back during the day.
So I stopped taking any medication at the end of March. I was taking a break from writing, so that was a good time to try this. I continued taking 100 mg of caffeine first thing in the morning and sometimes added 50 mg of caffeine in early afternoon. And after the first ten days, if I did get a serious headache, I went ahead and took Excedrin. My goal was to take Excedrin no more than ten days in the month, no more than a few days in a row.
I put a checkmark on every day in April when I was driven to take headache medication. There are six checkmarks. Six. For the whole month. Three days in a row in the middle of the month, then about one a week.
This is fabulous. It puts me back to about where I was three or so years ago, before the headaches became such a constant thing.
So, the problem is way better than it was and I hope it will stay that way. So hey, if any of you happen to suffer from chronic headaches that have gotten way more frequent than in the past, here you go: rebound headaches might be causing some of your headaches and, though it’s not an actual cure or anything, you might be able to get rid of those and back the problem off to something a bit more tolerable.
Incidentally, have you noticed how in novels, no one suffers from chronic headaches? Or arthritis? Or back pain? (I know this is not 100% true, but basically no one.) I long for the day when we can edit all chronic pain conditions out of real life the way we edit them out of fiction.
As a second side note: the topic I hate most in student papers is anything that draws on the idea that Addiction To Painkillers Is A Serious Problem. You know what the real problem is? Pain, that’s what. I believe you may find, if you are in pain, that you can quite easily get addicted to NOT BEING IN PAIN. Allow me to stifle argument for an authoritarian moment: No one should be allowed to express an opinion on this topic unless they have suffered from a chronic pain condition for more than three months.