The First Of Many
My junior year in high school I was hit in the head by the boom of a 420 sailboat while coming in from sailing practice. I suffered a massive concussion. The following weeks I did as any concussed patient would do in 2011, I removed myself from any stimuli, and got many hours of dark room rest. I had weekly visits with physicians to track my recovery and seek recommendations to improve my headaches. There was not much I could do they told me, just rest and I should recover soon. Five weeks past and I was still facing constant throbbing headaches. Summer was approaching and I wanted to start living my life like a normal kid again so I started resuming my daily activities.
Repeated Head Trauma
Unfortunately over that summer I hit my head 4 more times. The biggest of which I slammed my head on the dashboard of my boat as I was going over a wave. This caused tremendous pain to my brain. After this blow I assumed it might be another 5 weeks to recover, but after 5 weeks my symptoms were getting progressively worse. I developed allodynia (hypersensitivity of the nerves), which quickly moved to my whole body, causing tremendous headache with just a simple touch. My headaches were always present, and my mood was awful. I started seeing neurologists, pain management doctors, Sports medicine doctors, and many other specialists to see if they could help. I was told that because of my repeated head trauma I had developed allodynia, and they were looking for medications that could alleviate my symptoms. It had been months from my last head injury and I was in more pain than the initial blow, these doctors were prescribing me all kinds of medication to combat the nerve pain and headaches. I was put on a total of 20+ medications ranging from Valium to Prednisone to anti seizure drugs. One Harvard doctor told me that the only thing he can do is through medications at the wall hoping something sticks. The same doctor was very unsure why I was in so much pain without the mental dysfunctions of a concussion. He told me that I have post concussion syndrome, and it's very possible I might never get better from it. Quite an awful thing to hear as 17 year old senior in high school. I couldn't go out, I could barely go to school, the bumps on the road were so painful from my allodynia that most days I would arrive in so much pain that I could only stay for an hour. I remember days when I arrived at school just to turn back around because a friend of mine patted me on the back to say hello (this caused shocking pain to rush to my head). It's hard to believe looking back at it, just how restricted my life once was. I missed 80 days of school my senior year in high school and had to get a 504 plan just so I could graduate.
Finding My neck Injury
About 6 months into the whole ordeal, my doctor told me we should X-ray my neck because it could have some relation to my headaches. Well, it turned out that I had suffered a compression fracture on my C6 vertebrae. My neck went up and to the right because of this injury, pressing hard on my occiput and C2 vertebrae. The occiput and C2 vertebrae are strongly associated with headaches and nerve pain if they are misaligned. I would think that doctors specialized in treating concussions would X-ray your neck, especially if you have prolonged symptoms. It took them 6 months to figure this out. By this time my pain levels had progressed so much that it was unbearable. I was prescribed Oxycodone and other strong narcotics to relieve myself from the pain. Thankfully, I was able to find other ways to relieve my pain, avoiding the dark trap that too many pills can bring.
LESSONS FROM JON
If you are having prolonged symptoms from a concussion, or if you are having headaches all the time, check to see if your neck is injured. This is becoming common practice for doctors to check, but not every doctor does it. There was a strong connection found recently with neck injuries and post concussion syndrome. The neck can be responsible for all sorts of pain and discomfort in your head, so PLEASE consult with your doctor about your neck if you are still in pain.
This article is purely informational. I am not a doctor, though I am a patient. This is not advise.