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  1. A Way Out

    Causal Hypothesis

    Hi All, this is my first post, but I've spent a lot of time on the site reading posts. It's a great community, thanks so much! So here's my hypothesis: I'm convinced that cluster headaches are caused by extreme muscular tension in the neck. If you eliminate the muscular tension, you eliminate the cluster headaches. Here's how we can start to test this hypothesis: I would love if each person who reads this checks themselves. My bet is that every one of you has a knotted muscle in the neck that's so tense it feels like a bone. And it's especially bad on the side where you get the headaches. Probably in the middle of the neck, between the shoulders and the skull. Here's my story: I've had very bad headaches since I was young, and started having cluster headaches when I was 19,in the summer before I started college. Twice a day, 3pm and 8pm,incapacitating pain in the eye-temple. I went to a chiropractor who popped something in my skull,and did a couple other things, and I felt blood flow into those area, and they stopped. I thought it was a one time thing. Then, after college, in the weeks after graduation, I started getting them again. Twice a day, same deal, etc. When I went back home, the old chiropractor had retired and the new guy was a quack. Fortunately, the horrible headaches went away after a few weeks, on their own. I started exercising regularly, especially my shoulders and neck, due to an injury, and I started mediating regularly. No more cluster headaches for about 10 years. But I get married and stop exercising and meditating so much. I'm about to start law school, and they come back again, lasting this time for a couple months. This is when I look the symptoms up online and discover that they are cluster headaches, and that there are other people who get them. No doubt, all the typical symptoms (ice pick in the eye and temple, flush, same times each day, watery eye and stuffed/runny nose on side of headache, etc). I'm relieved not to be alone, but also terrified that sometimes the cycle doesn't stop, it repeats indefinitely. They're going on for months, and I'm getting desperate. But I noticed that I keep getting them at times of extended stress. So I start looking at other things related to stress, and I start to meditate when they begin to come on. I can't meditate through the peak, it's just to much, but I can meditate through all the ascent. What I start to notice is that the pain isn't really coming from the eye-temple. It's coming from a hard muscular knot in my neck, on the same side as the headache. I can actually keep all the spasming-throbing right there in the neck until the peak of the headache when I lose focus and it seems almost like the spasming-throbbing in my neck is mirrored as incredible throbbing sharp pain in the eye-temple. Here's what I do: 1) get a couple deep tissue/trigger point massages. 2) Make a point to relax my neck and shoulders throughout the day. 3) Exercise the neck and shoulders at least twice a week with pullups and rowing-type exercises. 4) reduce my coffee consumption to one cup a day. 5) Also, I grind my teeth in my sleep. So I start making sure that I wear a mouthguard at night. 6) when I feel one coming on, at the very beginning, I try to actively attend to the neck tension and release it. And it seems to work, lessening the intensity after a few days and eliminating the clusters after about 10 days. I get them again when I'm studying for the bar, but now I can handle them and they only last a week or so. And I get them again last month, under pressure with fundraising for the business I'm building with a partner. But this time I start trying to relax, get a massage, reduce coffee, start exercising again, as soon as they start. Somehow they never develop into full-blown, rocking-moaning, stabbing-throbbing pain, except once. So here's my hypothesis again: cluster headaches are caused by muscular tension in the neck. If you eliminate the muscular tension, you eliminate the cluster headaches. And again, I hope you'll help me start to test this hypothesis: I would love if each person who reads this checks themselves. My bet is that every one of you has a knotted muscle in the neck that's so tense it feels like a bone. And it's especially bad on the side where you get the headaches. Excited to hear what you find!
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