New Daily Persistent Headache
New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH) is characterized by the sudden onset of intense head pain that lasts for a minimum of three months. The pain is typically tightening, and non-pulsating, and will increase and decrease throughout the day and night, but does not leave the patient entirely. Think of a bright light controlled by a dimmer switch. It gets brighter and brighter (intensifying the pain) and then dimmer. And then back again. But it never gets shut off completely. New Daily Persistent Headache is not generally aggravated by physical activity. In fact, some patients find that lying down to relax may actually make the pain unbearable.
It's Not a Tumor! Classic Arnold Clip
More about New Daily Persistent Headache
- New Daily Persistent Headache — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress
- Kelli's Migraine Daily: New Daily Persistent Headache - What is it?
- Online Support Group
New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH) Support Group at mdjunction.com: Give and get help. Share experiences and meet friends with the same health challenges.
- New Daily Persistent Headache
Although New Daily Persistent Headache shares some symptoms with tension-type headache, it is unique in that patients can often pinpoint the date their headache began. Detailed information.
My Struggle with New Daily Persistent Headache
March 18, 2005 started off like any other day. I remember so clearly what changed it. At 2:20 in the afternoon, a headache fell on to me, like a blockof cement. I rarely experienced headaches. In my career as a Licensed Massage Therapist, I specialized in chronic pain and migraine treatment, so I figured this was a migraine, and that it would go away. I took Advil and struggled through the rest of the day. I took Aleve and I struggled through the night.
Two weeks and several doctors later, I found myself in the ER, hearing words tossed around me like TUMOR and BLEED. I had scans and IV medications. I did not have any answers, but I still had a headache.
Three months later, my headache was still going strong. During this time, I had very few low pain days. Most of the time I was walking around, caring for my children with full-blown migraine level pain. I tried various migraine medications without success. Finally, I found a specialist who was able to diagnose the headache as New Daily Persistent Headache. He knew exactly what I had. He knew how to treat it. He was optimistic.
The best medication, in his opinion, for New Daily Persistent Headache was not an option for me, due to family medical history. Instead, I participated as a guinea pig in a research study for a new medication. I was now armed with a plan and a purse full of new painkillers.
I recently passed my three-year anniversary. No, I did not have a party to celebrate my cure, because I have yet to find it. But I didn’t throw a pity party either.
So what happened to my doctor’s plan? I had some moderate, temporary relief from pain, then developed an ulcer (possible side effect) and chest pains. I was promptly booted out of the study. We have not yet been able to find a medication or combination of medications to give me lasting or even consistently temporary relief. This is not at all uncommon with New Daily Persistent Headache..
I am lucky, though, in a sense. I once went 17 days without a high pain headache. Now, three years later, the headache is often (but not constantly) with me and I am a little secretive about it. I won’t mention it unless I am having a high pain day and have to struggle through my daily responsibilities as a mom. Occasionally, like this past month, I will have entire weeks go by with moderate to high pain and very few low pain days. I will also have the pleasure of up to two weeks with no pain or little pain at all. This usually happens during the cold, dry winter.
So why am I lucky? There are some people with NDPH that rarely have a low pain / no pain day. There are some that cannot work, and children and teens who cannot handle school due to the pain. I believe that I have developed an extremely high tolerance for headache, simply because I had no choice. There are others like me, too. They have made the decision that until they find a treatment that works, they are just going to continue with their life as if they didn’t have a headache at all. I am able to work through a headache that would have taken me down for the day three years ago. And it is not killing me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
New Daily Persistent Headache Triggers
Internal Headache Triggers:
- Chronic fatigue, too little sleep
- Emotional stress, letdown after stress
- Hormonal Fluctuations
External Headache Triggers:
- Weather and seasonal changes
- Travel through time zones
- Skipping or delaying meals
- Sensory stimuli (such as flickering or bright light, odors including perfume, chemicals or smoke, heat and loud noises)
- Medications (including but not limited to nitroglycerin, tetracycline, high doses of Vitamin A, certain antidepressants and blood pressure and medications)
- Nutrasweet (aspartame)
- Aged cheese
- Processed meats
- Fermented foods
New Daily Persistent Headache: Triggers
If you suffer from headaches of any kind, you should be aware of what triggers an attack. It has taken me a very long time to get this squared away, but I now know that I cannot eat a single M&M or piece of chocolate, or I am likely to trigger a long episode. Unfortunately, red wine is another trigger. No, my life is not the same without them. Luckily, caffeine is not a trigger (for me), so I can still enjoy and obsess over my beloved coffee!
What New Daily Persistent Headache Is NOT
It is not a migraine. This is precisely why New Daily Persistent Headache is so difficult to treat. It is typically treated with migraine specific medication and it works for only a small percentage of people. Although I appreciate the advice that everyone offers (I have tried every possible avenue it seems), what works for a typical migraine may not work for others or me like me. I have probably tried it. I think in general people with NDPH are a little tired of people saying, “well I have the worst migraines, I get two a month sometimes but…” Please don’t say that to someone who suffers from NDPH. Keep in mind that they have had a migraine quality headache for months at a time, possibly for years. Trust me, there is not one of us out there who has not tried every possible dosage of Imitrex.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about headaches, from the book Conquering Headache by A. Rapoport, F. Sheftell and S. Tepper (my personal doctors). These are the basic FACTS about headache that they feel everyone should be aware of:
- Headache is not all in your head, but often has physiological causes.
- Sinus infections and allergies are not frequent causes of headache.
- Stress is NOT a cause of headache but rather a modulator of headache.
- Most headache sufferers do not have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.
- More medication for the acute treatment of headache is usually not better treatment. In many cases, less medication, taken optimally and early, may offer greater relief.
Alternative Therapy for New Daily Persistent Headache
There are countless alternative therapies to explore. I have tried a good deal of them myself. I had moderate success with some of them and found some completely useless. Each headache sufferer is different and will respond to various therapies and medications uniquely.
- Massage Therapy (I specifically suggest finding a therapist that specializes in Trigger Point Therapy or Neuromuscular Therapy)
- Naturopathic Medicine
- Nutrition counseling
- Physical Therapy
- Herbal Remedies
If you or someone you love suffers from New Daily Persistent Headache, keep searching for a solution. I highly recommend checking out one of the online support groups. Support from people who understand what you are going through is priceless. I am confident that someday I will either find something that works for me, or simply wake up one morning, and the headache will go from me as quickly as it arrived on March 18, 2005. Until then, I will continue to wake up every morning and thank God for my beautiful life, my healthy children, my loving family and for the strength to keep on pushing through.
If you would like to read more about NDPH, follow my story or share your own, please visit my blog: Living with NDPH. I was inspired to start it by the huge response I have received from this article, to enable me to share more detailed information and communicate with others who are suffering.
NDPH - Update September 2012
It's been over seven years now since my headache started. Nearly two years ago, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. My doctor (and I) suspected that a tick bite in early spring (about two weeks previous to the onset of the headache) was what triggered my headache.
I have gone through so much with this painful headache, but now I am doing much better. I still have a headache some days, but it is low on the pain scale. Occasionally (2-3 times per month) the pain escalates to a migraine level of pain.
If there is any chance that you could have Lyme Disease, please seek out a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor. I know for a fact that I am not the only person diagnosed with NDPH who later discovered that I had Lyme. If it is indeed Lyme that is causing your headache, treatment is available and you can recover!
If you are in need of support in this difficult journey, please visit my blog (listed above). There are tons of ideas and treatment options available, as well as many compassionate people who know exactly what you are going through.