1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice

Cured tension headaches and migraines I'd suffered for 10+ years!

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by rbracco, Feb 7, 2023.

  1. rbracco

    rbracco Newcomer

    Background: I've had headaches most of my life, and remember them becoming a bit more consistent/intense around age 25 (I'm currently 35). I had a deviated septum and a lot of sinus issues and thought those might be a cause. Around age 31 my headaches were probably 1-1.5x weekly and quite strong, and I was determined to find the cause and do whatever I could to rid myself of them.

    I asked my ENT about my "sinus headaches" and he told me that these are probably tension headaches. "Do you work at a desk sitting like this all day?", "Yes", "Yeah those are tension headaches, I'll give you some exercises and also prescribe some sumatriptan for the ones that are migraines." (Important disclaimer: see a doctor and rule out serious physical causes. If your doctor diagnoses you with tension/migraine/sinus headaches, then this book might help you).

    Over the next 1.5 years I try everything, exercise, yoga, foam-rolling/lacrosse ball work, standing desk, special glasses, improving posture, tracking my diet for potential triggers...etc. Most of these things don't work, some, like yoga and lacrosse ball provide temporary relief, but my headaches keep getting worse. At this point they're 2-3x weekly and bad, sometimes im in bed with an eyemask on for the whole day or more, taking lots of ibuprofen, caffeine pills, excedrine migraine and occasional sumatriptan. I use mentholated pain patches on my neck/back and even temples, and I have 5+ other remedies I use. I have some form of pain or shoulder tension that precedes a headache every single day, and every single day I fear it will turn into a full blown headache. At this point it is affecting every aspect of my life.

    I decide to seek out a book, and come across "Heal your Headache" on Amazon as the top rated headache book. I pick up a copy and read it, cliffs are "Quit caffeine, red wine, and dark chocolate, plus a huge list of 'triggering foods', and cold turkey off medications because they do more harm than good". I read it in 2 days and find that my headaches improve somewhat just reading this book, and the stories of people who had similar or worse headache patterns being cured. This is my first clue that the condition isn't 100% physical. I also find myself reassured that the amazon 4-5 star reviews say it helped them immensely, but the 1-2 star reviews don't say "I tried this the best I could and it didn't work" but just generally say "this is too restrictive" or "this book is pseudoscience with no RCTs". I decide I'm going to try the diet and other advice of this book (I never actually tried it, due to discovering MindBody Prescription and trying that instead to great effect).

    It's around this time I come across this twitter thread: https://mobile.twitter.com/JoshWComeau/status/1379438688602570753
    I find the story incredibly interesting and I pick up a copy of MBP just out of pure curiosity, not even thinking that it could potentially be applied to headaches. In the book, like many people it helped, I see myself on every page. I also notice he briefly mentions headaches as a form of TMS, so I say screw it, I'll give it a shot. I start out still very skeptical that this can be applied to headaches, but I commit to at least pretending I believe it (this is essential, give yourself permission to believe). One other thing that helped me is that the skeptic in me decided to check Amazon reviews, and I found nobody who gave a 1-2 star review says "you know, I was skeptical but I gave it my best shot, and after 4 weeks it just didn't work for me". They all call it junk science, say it lacks evidence, or that Sarno doesn't tell you what to do.

    The first thing I do while reading the book is I stop doing any type of physical practice to try to reduce tension or improve my headaches. I even take it to the point that if I'm on the couch or seated at a desk typing, and I feel that familiar tension start to creep into my neck/shoulder, instead of adjusting or shaking it out, I intentionally remain in that position and remind myself that this isn't the cause.
    As I'm reading I go ahead and buy Schacter's MindBody Workbook: (https://www.amazon.ca/MindBody-Workbook-program-understanding-disorders-ebook) l and make a few notion docs with Sarno's affirmations, and the stories of every person I can find who claims their headaches were improved by treating it as TMS (https://www.notion.so/Success-Stories-cd4fb668b19d49208855d80330b7da17). I do the journal daily, reread the book a few more times, read the success stories every few days, reading guides and stories on https://www.tmswiki.org (The Tension Myositis Syndrome Wiki), and start doing all the things I had been avoiding for fear of causing a headache.

    I had stopped swimming, because getting water in my ear/nose "caused my sinuses to seal up". On flights I used special earplugs so the sudden pressure change wouldn't mess up my sinuses. Also my wife is from Mexico and, while there, if we spent too long in the 90 degree sun, I'd get a headache/migraine, so I started pushing back on that idea as well. All of these "headache triggers" were confirmed as valid by my ENT who advised I avoid those activities. I had listened to that point, but now I decided to try Sarno's advice and not limit myself physically. We went swimming with our nieces and I dove in the pool, did flips without holding my nose, and was intentionally reckless with ingesting water, and my sinuses stayed completely clear. In fact my sinuses stopped sealing up, and since then I've been able to breathe better than any point in my life.

    The experience that really sealed it for me though, was about 5 days in, I started to have a headache near my right temple. I did as advised and focused on my thoughts/emotions rather than anything physical, and I also said to my brain 'I know what you're doing and it's not going to work, now give me oxygen and open up my blood vessels near my temple', and the headache went away. Not two minutes later, I had a headache start forming at the back of my head. This is something that had never happened, my headaches didn't move, unless it was gradually over hours. I had read about this kind of transfer happening in other people's experiences, and I, now feeling more empowered, repeated the same process, and the pain dissipated. Unbelievably, five minutes later, I felt a gastritis pain in my stomach. Gastritis is something I had had 3-4 bouts of over the previous 3 years, and had treated with omeprazole. Before that point, I had never considered it as a possible manifestation of TMS, but I repeated the process and it went away. Finally, a few minutes later, I rotated my head and my neck popped and got stiff. This had happened to me roughly every other month for around 5 years, and I thought it was some form of pinched nerve or muscle injury, and would leave me unable to fully rotate my head on one side. It was super annoying and would last 1-3 days. I also hadnt consider that this could possibly be TMS. This time the pop didn't cause the full pinched nerve sensation, it was very mild, but since that moment I've never had that crick in my neck, nor have I had any type of gastritis pain.

    Anyways, after that extremely strange experience, I had little doubt that, if I kept journaling, believing and following the process, that I could minimize the role of headaches in my life. I had maybe 1 headache that week, and then from that point forward, roughly 1 mild headache per month (the type that I could take 2 advil for, or sleep and it would go away, not the debilitating ones I'd had in the past). Eventually, I stopped doing any kind of journaling or reading and, during a period of stress, my headaches increased to around 3x monthly. I reread the book and I added the question "Did you do anything yesterday that might cause head pain?" to a bullet journal I do most mornings, and my headaches decreased back to once a month or less.

    I know reading other peoples' success stories was something that helped me immensely, so I hope that reading this might help you with your headaches. You might be caught in a fear-pain cycle and be digging yourself in deeper looking for a physical solution. It scares me to think that I could have gone on for years like that! If you've seen a doctor, ruled out any serious physical cause, and been diagnosed with tension headaches, sinus headaches or migraines, then please consider giving this book a shot. If you have any questions feel free to write me at "robert + my last name (last 6 letters of my username) + 1 @ gmail.com" (without the + of course).
    Ellen, Enrique and JanAtheCPA like this.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you for the Success Story, Robert, and the support you're giving other members. This is an excellent compilation of a TMS journey and confirmation of the TMS process. And, by the way, great job!

  3. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great success story! Thanks so much for sharing so others can benefit.

Share This Page