A Patient Story
Cynthia Wooten struggled with off and on headache for 20 years. The pain would start at the base of her skull and shoot up her scalp, made worse by light and noise. The pain was often so bad she would be nauseated and couldn’t open her eyes.
“They were awful. I would miss my nephew’s ball games because of them. Sometimes it was a couple of times a week, and always at least once a month. It was always a worry. I would think, ‘Oh no, am I going to get a headache?’ When my niece got married, all I could think about was, ‘I can’t get a headache.’
I thought they were migraines. I had the classic symptoms. The next day, after a headache, I would have what everybody would call a migraine hangover. My scalp would hurt on the outside.”
Cynthia said she had seen a neurologist for several years and “we had tried everything,” but nothing helped her headaches.
Cynthia is a hospice nurse, and the medical director at the facility where she worked suggested she see board-certified neurologist Henry Hooker, MD at Cumberland Neurology Group in Oak Ridge. She first visited Dr. Hooker in July 2016.
Dr. Hooker started with a detailed medical history. He says he believed Cynthia had not been diagnosed correctly.
“Headaches are commonly misdiagnosed because the symptoms mimic other problems. And obviously, diagnosis is the key to treating headaches. If you have the wrong diagnosis, you start barking up the wrong tree with treatment.”
Dr. Hooker diagnosed Cynthia with “migraine without aura,” but also with “occipital neuralgia.” In this condition the occipital nerves, which run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp, are inflamed or injured, causing pain in the base of the skull.
Multi-Faceted Approach to Headache Pain Treatment
Dr. Hooker initially treated Cynthia with long-acting steroid injections at the base of her skull to reduce the inflammation of the occipital nerves. He also gave her two low doses of medications to prevent new headaches.
After repeating the treatments a few times, Dr. Hooker sent Wooten to a physical therapist with special training in headache and neck pain. The therapist uses tools such as muscle relaxation techniques, biofeedback, analysis of sleep positions and pillow sizes, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), which sends electrical stimulation to nerves to relieve pain.
Dr. Hooker says not all headaches need to be treated with medication.
“People should know there are other things besides medicine that you can do for headaches. We are a narcotic-free headache center. In Ms. Wooten’s case, we treated her with a minimum of oral medications.
There are some types of headaches that treatment does not help, but they’re pretty rare. If your headaches are out of control, not getting better, and affecting your activities of daily living, you really need to go to a headache professional for treatment.”
Cynthia says she is very glad she did.
“The best part is that I have no more headaches – I don’t miss family activities anymore. Dr. Hooker has taken a huge burden off me. The last time I saw him, I told him he saved my life!”
If you suffer chronic headache pain or have any questions about the services we offer, please call our office at (865) 481-0333.
The neurologists at Cumberland Neurology Group diagnose and treat diseases of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.
Henry Hooker, MD is board certified in neurology. He has a sub-specialty certification and special interest in headache treatment. Click here to see his full bio.