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eastern cure for a western headache June 30, 2009

Posted by doug in important developments, schmerz.

so about a month ago i started having these headaches. they weren’t the migraines i’ve come to know over the last decade. no, this flavor of headache lacked the visual disturbances (see below) and came on like an electric shock, crowding my skull and pulsing to the rhythm of my heartbeat. (less romantic than it sounds.) having an insurance plan at the moment, i decided to get it checked out by a professional. the general doctor-man referred me to a “specialist”: a kindly neurologist who worked a few blocks away. i went the following week, and the first order of business was an electroencephalography, or an EEG as it’s commonly referenced in neurological-themed hip-hop lyrics. it looked something (exactly) like this:


the helper-lady administered this sweet-looking EEG cap and goo’d up my scalp with special EEG-sensitive goop. (imagine l.a. looks styling gel that can read your mind.) i had to sit still and think happy thoughts* for a few minutes while she scanned my dome. afterward, i met with the neurologist, who assured me – against all contrary evidence – that i had a “good brain.” based on my headache description and history of migraines, he posited that i was likely experiencing “exertion headaches.” (laughable based on my generally laissez faire existence, but i guess it’s just a name. like how you can get athlete’s foot without playing sports. or aids without ever helping anyone.) he said he was 90-percent sure they were exertion headaches, but there was an off chance it could be a brain aneurysm. (had he avoided hard numbers, i wouldn’t have worried. but 1 in 10 is far better odds than, say, joey logano taking the top prize at the lenox industrial tools 301 auto race. for christ’s sake.) so i scheduled an MRA scan** for the following week, which resulted in another silly getup:


i had to strip down to my skivvies this time and wear this classy evening gown (that i later pilfered) so as not to upset the scan results. i also had to remove anything metal, which thankfully excluded the titanium shank implanted in my left leg. (would have been messy.) so for the second time in a year, a lab technician eased me into the mechanical womb of “the coil” (to adopt the popular magnetic imaging vernacular). when the neurologist received the results the following week, he assured me there was no evidence of an aneurysm and that my cerebral arteries looked “good.” (this guy was a peerless wordsmith. a verbal turducken with walt whitman nestled inside winston churchill and stuffed into the lifeless oratorical carcass of barack obama.)

but short of relaxing there’s no real cure for an exertion headache. and since any more relaxation would lead financial ruin and/or a vegetative state, i decided to look to “alternative” medicine. so i found a conveniently-located acupuncturist and went the next day:


i don’t claim to know how it works, but dr. tan stuck needles in my hands, wrists, neck and shoulders and i left feeling relaxed, perforated and largely satisfied with the experience. and most importantly, i haven’t had a single exertion headache since. take that western medicine.

*the happy thoughts were my own invention, but i can only assume they curved my spike and wave discharges into the most attractive brain patterns ever inked on EEG paper.

**not a typo. an MRA is exactly like an MRI, but instead of looking at all the brainy materials, it examines the arteries. a series of hollow tubes that take your thoughts from the brain and out your mouth***.

***i’m guessing on this last part.