an injection for HIV related chronic migraine pain

Chronic Pain and Nerve Block Injections

I have been dealing with chronic pain of one type or another since 2009. This is about the time they believe I contracted HIV. I have tried different types of nerve block injections in order to treat some of my chronic pain.

This or That

Are you dealing with chronic pain?

Chronic migraine and HIV

I developed chronic migraine in 2009. I previously dealt with episodic migraines, which means occasional migraines. But my migraines became daily. At first, everyone believed that the increase in migraines was because I was under stress. I was completing a double bachelor's degree and working full-time.

Unfortunately, the migraines did not go away after completing school. A study including 200 HIV-positive patients resulted in 53.5 percent reporting a problem with headaches. The study continued on to explain that most of the cases of headaches have the characteristics of chronic migraine.3

Generalized chronic pain

Soon after my migraines became chronic, I began to feel chronic pain all over my body. My joints, my back, and places on my arms all hurt. A friend told me my pain sounded like fibromyalgia, but I kept putting off going to a rheumatologist. I simply did not want another health issue.

In 2013, I gave in, went to a rheumatologist, a received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Since then, it seems as though my chronic pain has spiraled out of control.

Occipital nerves

For my chronic migraine, I tried occipital nerve block injections. These injections are done in the occipital nerves. The occipital nerves are a "group of nerves that arise from the C2 and C3 spinal nerves."1

This means that the nerves run up the back part of your head and upper neck.

Occipital nerve block injections

For the occipital nerve block injection sessions, I was instructed to take a pain pill prior to coming to the appointment. The pain from having a needled shoved into the back of my head was horrible.

It seemed like the oral pain pill did not help with the pain from receiving the nerve block injections at all. I would need a driver after these injections because I would be in so much pain afterward.

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Bilateral lumbar medial branch nerves

For my chronic back pain, I tried bilateral lumbar medial branch nerve block injections. The "medial branch nerves are the small nerves that carry pain signals to the brain."2

These nerves are connected to facet joints. These facet joints are "pairs of small joints that are situated at each vertebral level of the spine."2

This means the injections are done in the lower back.

Bilateral lumbar medial branch nerves block injections

For the bilateral lumbar medial branch nerves block injection sessions, the procedure was very different. I could not eat or drink for 6 hours prior to my appointment. They inserted an IV in my arm. I was allowed to climb on the table myself and they strapped me down. It sounds scary but it was not.

They gave me a sedative through my IV and I quickly went to sleep. When I woke up again, I was in a recovery room and had band-aids on my lower back. Once I drank some juice and they were sure I was okay, They allowed me to leave with my best friend as my driver.

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In my experience

Regrettably, the occipital nerve block injections did not solve my chronic migraine. They did not even dull the pain. But that does not mean that they won’t work for another person. The bilateral lumbar medial branch nerves block injections worked a little better. It helped a small amount. The doctor believes that a different kind of additional block is needed for me to receive more pain relief.

While I am still trying to navigate chronic migraine and my existing generalized chronic pain, I am facing yet another chronic pain condition. I have recently been diagnosed with autonomic peripheral neuropathy and distal symmetric polyneuropathy.

Have you experienced chronic pain? Have you had any kind of nerve block injections? If so, what was your reaction?

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