Cervicogenic Headache

Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache, which means that it is caused by another illness or physical issue. In the case of cervicogenic headache, the cause is a neck disorder or lesion.

American Migraine Foundation

A new path

Until late 2015, I had never heard of a cervicogenic headache let alone that I had been suffering from them for years. I began “real” treatment for my migraines in late 2007 after we saw an ad for the St. Vincent Migraine Center on TV. After years of failed attempts to control them, I found Dr. Edward D. Zdobylak who promptly put me on Topamax. Topamax controlled my migraines (15 a year down from 150 a year) for about 8 years and it just stopped working. It was time for Dr. Zdobylak to try something new and in early 2015 we tried Botox for Migraines.

Over the next two years, my migraines decreased from 300 a year to about 100 but the migraines “changed”. By changed, I mean that rather than beginning behind my left eye as they always had, they now were starting at the back of the head. So, it was time to start journalling my headaches again and after 6 months or so, Dr. Zdobylak determined that these migraines were starting somewhere else and he referred me to Dr. David Ratzman.

A new procedure

Dr. Ratzman determined after a some X-rays and MRI’s that I was having cervicogenic headaches. The recommended course of action was physical therapy and a series of cervical epidurals.

Cervical epidural steroid injection procedures are injections administered to relieve pain in the neck, shoulders and arms caused by a pinched nerve or inflamed nerve(s) in the cervical spine. Conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis or arthritis can compress and pinch nerves, causing inflammation and pain.

Advanced Pain Management

To put things it midly I wouldn’t call the above procedure a pleasant experience. However, given the number and magnitude of my migraines, it was a welcome procedure with a promise of relief. These procedures provided relief for 4-6 weeks rather than the expected 3-6 months. The first injection was a “stab in the dark” (pun intended) and the second was a confirmation injection.  The next stage of treatment was then to have radio frequency ablation on C2 through C5 in my cervical spine.

A new path

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a medical procedure in which part of the electrical conduction system of the heart, tumor or other dysfunctional tissue is ablated using the heat generated from medium frequency alternating current (in the range of 350–500 kHz).

I had this procedure performed yesterday so it is still too early to tell if it was successful. After 30 hours, my neck is still extremely sore and stiff. (This is result of the injury to the muscle from the procedure itself) I have also experienced a 10-20% loss of sensation/feeling in the nerves of my neck. These symptoms should subside within 2-6 weeks of the procedure. If the procedure was a success then it could eliminate my cervicogenic headaches for between 12 months and 10 years. (depending on how long it takes my body to regrow the severed nerves)

I don’t expect a “cure” because there really isn’t one right now but I feel like this has been a step along the road to a normal life. Only time will tell and my journey will be documented here.

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