One of the worst things about fibromyalgia, besides the chronic pain and fatigue, has to be the way that people who suffer from fibromyalgia are at risk of so many other conditions like autoimmune diseases and especially, chronic headaches.
It’s estimated that up to forty percent of people with fibromyalgia suffer from migraines or some other form of a persistent headache. But like fibromyalgia, it’s hard to get to the bottom of what’s causing your headaches. And like fibromyalgia, migraines are often misdiagnosed. In fact, some people who suffer from persistent headaches aren’t actually suffering from migraines, but from a related condition called occipital neuralgia. So, what is occipital neuralgia? How is it related to fibromyalgia? And what can you do to treat it?
What Is Occipital Neuralgia?
Occipital neuralgia is a condition that causes chronic pain in the base of the skull. People often describe it as being like an electrical shock or even similar to being stabbed in the muscle. The pain usually radiates from the back of the head down the neck and up the sides of the head or behind the eye.
The root of the condition lies in the occipital nerves. These are nerves that run from the back of the neck and the spine up through the sides of the head to the scalp. But sometimes, injuries or inflammation of the muscles in the spine cause the tissue to start pressing on these nerves. This leads to a condition called neuralgia, where the nerves begin to send pain signals to the brain.
That produces the symptoms that are similar to migraines, which makes it difficult to diagnose the condition. Doctors can diagnose the condition by performing a physical exam, pressing their finger into the base of the skull to see if your pain gets worse. In addition, they can also give you something called a nerve block, which shuts off the interaction between the nerves, which can help prove that it’s neuralgia rather than migraines.
But there are many different conditions that can lead to neuropathy, which is why it might affect people with fibromyalgia more frequently than the general population.
How Is It Related To Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia puts you at risk of a number of different conditions and some of them are also contributing factors to neuralgia. For instance, diabetes is a common complaint of people with fibromyalgia. And the nerve pain from diabetes can contribute significantly to the risk of developing occipital neuralgia.
In addition, we know that having fibromyalgia makes you more likely to develop autoimmune conditions. An autoimmune condition is one where the body’s immune system begins to attack the body’s own tissue. This results in painful inflammation all over the body. And a common autoimmune condition is something called arteritis. Arteritis causes inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels. This inflammation can put pressure on the occipital nerves and can be a root cause of neuralgia.
And fibromyalgia also seems to affect the nerves themselves. Fibromyalgia seems to trigger your nerves to send pain signals to the brain. And it could be that the same nerve connections can contribute to the symptoms of occipital neuralgia.
So, there are a lot of different possible reasons that fibromyalgia could contribute to the condition, but what you probably want to know if you suffer from it is what you can do to treat it.
How Can You Treat It?
There are a few things you can do to immediately provide some relief. The best thing to do is to get some rest. Moving your neck can make the pain worse. Instead, lay down and apply a warm compress to the back of the neck. And massaging the muscles of the neck can help, as can basic, over-the-counter pain medication.
Your doctor can also prescribe a number of medications that can help with the symptoms. Your doctor might prescribe muscle relaxants to help ease the overly-tight muscles that are pressing on the nerves. And they can also prescribe steroid shots that help reduce inflammation of the tissue.
In addition, the doctor can give you regular nerve block injections. These nerve blocks tend to wear off after a week or two, so you will probably need a number of treatments to help control the symptoms.
Combined with rest and warm compresses, these medications are usually enough to help resolve the worst symptoms of the condition.