There are many different paths to take when treating migraine. I have gone down many, and today I would like to share a little about one of them – greater occipital nerve block.
In 2013/14/15, we were living in San Diego. My medications, previously prescribed by my general practitioner, were not helping me enough. Being a military family and having been on the move so much, we had never sought out a neurologist. I know that may surprise people, but when my journey with this disease started, I was not having migraines all the time and managed with medications. However, things progressively became worse over the years and it was time to seek more help. One of the things I loved most about living in San Diego was the amazing team of doctors I found. At the end of 2014 I was referred to a neurologist who was an incredible, compassionate woman that was always willing to take the time to listen and never rushed you out the door – and if you haven't had a ton of experience with specialist, that is kind or rare.
We decided that on top of taking abortive triptans (medications you take at the start of a migraine to try and stop it, or lessen the impact) to try a greater occipital nerve block. Since my migraines are always on the left side of my head (where the greater occipital nerve runs), she would inject the never block on that side. First, they swab the area with alcohol. Then they do the injection of the nerve block, which is mixed with a local anesthetic. They do this because the needle has to penetrate the surface of your skin as well as deeper tissue. I had two rounds done over a couple months. She would not do any more than three within 6 months because of the risk of side effects from the steroid (which can include bleeding, worsening of symptoms and infections.) The first injection was December 2nd, and the second injection was February 13th.
Every time you try a new path of treatment, you try not to let yourself get too hopeful and excited... but it's hard to rein that in sometimes. I thought, “Yes! This could be the answer we have been waiting for.” And then you pray like crazy. So, when the treatment fails, there is always major disappointment. For me, the nerve block did nothing for my migraines and caused me more pain. The spot on my head where the injection was done hurt all the time afterwards. The numbing shot wore off, but the pain from the injection didn't. I felt like I always had a terrible bruise on the back of my head. (You know the kind? When you run into something and it hurts, you know the bruise is going to be bad. In fact, it is seriously painful and the bruise is deep, takes days to appear and weeks to totally go away.) I couldn't lay on that side to sleep, washing/brushing/drying my hair was difficult, and my husband couldn't even touch the back of my head or run is fingers through my hair. Because of this, we stopped after two tries. I went back to just getting bye with my medications. We were trying to get pregnant again, so my options were very limited.
Even though the nerve blocks did not work, I am happy I tried them. I am happy no matter what treatment we do, because at least we are trying. I attempt not to be too hopeful about treatments, but I will never give up hope. This journey is long and there are many dead ends, but I refuse to just throw my hands up and accept that I have to give up and lock myself in the dark. “Where there is hope, there is faith. Where there is faith, miracles happen.”
Have you tried a nerve block? Was it impact did it have for you?