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Headaches from pressure while skydiving
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Headaches from pressure while skydiving

Hello, I am 30 yr old female that recently went skydiving (tandem;10,000 ft in the air) on a Sunday.  During the free fall (roughly 5000 ft), I felt pain in my head.  It started pounding and throbbing.  I have never had headaches this bad before.  Even while the parachute glide, my head was still in pain.  After 1.5 hrs of bad headaches, I went to the ER and had a ct scan.  The doctor said it was clear and gave me fioricet for the pain.  I saw a neurologist on Tuesday who prescribe frova and naprelan 500mg for my condition.  I had blood work, EEG test, and MRI tests done on Tues/Wed/Thurs.  Thurs evening, I had another headache (pain) attack while straining (light strain) for BM.  The headaches were so bad, I had to go back to the ER.  During that visit, they gave me 2 doses of morphine, ran another ct scan (doctor said no bleeding and to follow up with neurologist friday), and prescribe oxycodone, promethazine, etodolac.  I met with neurologist Friday morning and he stated that blood test, EEG, and MRI all came out fine.  I told him that I was in the ER the night before, he prescribe 4 new meds: methylpresisolone, indomethacin, ultram, and zanaflex.  Then I am suppose to see him in 2 wks for follow up.  I did have an ENT doctor look at me and he said sinuses are fine.  He is not sure what caused the headaches (or head pains).  Can anyone please help me???    
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620923_tn?1405964489
Did u get copies of ur MRI's and the reports?

If not, u may want to call the facility and request both the films on disk and the reports.
Sometimes what one dr feels is nothing can be......get them and get a second opinion.

"selma"
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Avatar_n_tn
Sounds like you may have some barotrauma.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you for replying to this thread...

Selma, I have copies of the MRI and one of the CT scans written results, but not the actual xrays and images.  I hope they will release them to me without problems.  I have been hearing "get your neurologist or physician to contact us for the results and we will forward it to them".      

Jeff_E, I asked the ENT doctor about barotrauma and he didn't think that was the cause of it.  I will ask the neurologist at my next visit about barotrauma and see what he says.  
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Avatar_n_tn
Did you have any sinus congestion before the dive, or any symptoms at all?
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Avatar_n_tn
Typed the wrong user name so I am just reposting to the correct individual.

Did you have any sinus congestion before the dive, or any symptoms at all?
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620923_tn?1405964489
U should be able to request the copies, just say u r going for a second opinion out of state.....they should allow u to get the copies of all the testing including the reports.

Sometimes things r missed, so a second look can not hurt.

Good Luck

"selma"
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Avatar_f_tn
I didn't think I had sinus congestion or any symptoms before the dive.  However, I was told that I could have had a sinus congestion without the symptoms of sinus drip, cold, stuffy nose, etc.  

When I met with the ENT (8 days after the incident), he said he didn't see any signs of it.  
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Avatar_f_tn
So far, I have most of test results (images and report) and plan to see another neurologist for a second opinion.  Thanks the advice!  
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620923_tn?1405964489
U r welcome.

Good luck and please post an update!!

"selma"
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Avatar_n_tn
Sounds to me like you have some sort of blockage causing inflamation (inflammation) in your head. It sounds to me like barotrauma or possibly barosinusitis are most likely since so far no medical professional has been able to diagnose you and your scans show clean. Have you noticed anything going on with the lymph nodes on your neck? Could be some blockage due to poor lymph node drainage. Could be you got a bacterial or viral infection causing some sinus infection shortly before the jump.

Just to give you an idea of how many doctors can tell you what it isn't, be so wrong, and of course can't tell you what it is. My mother recently went on vacation. When she got back on a Sunday she told me of her symptoms, and I told her it sounded like a sinus infection. Monday she had a severe headache. Tuesday she had a couple of 'em. Wednesday we had to rush her to the ER because she said that her head felt like it was coming off, and about to explode. She said this is the worse pain she has every experienced, and my mom is a tough cookie. When she had me they couldn't get the IV in so she had no pain meds, and she said this was worse than that. At the ER they gave her meds that made her puke which made the pain worse. They ran a CT scan, did blood work, and a lumbar puncture, and said it all looked good. The nurse said it's probably just a really bad sinus infection. They gave her a Zpack, oxycodone prescription, recommendation to see a neurologist, and sent her home. The oxycodone only made the pain dull, and I don't think the Zpack did much. When she ran out of the Zpack, and still didn't feel good, she called her general practitioner to see if she needed another Zpack. He said no. He did prescribe her some Flonase, and recommended taking 800mg of Ibuprofin. The Flonase seemed like it helped the most so far. Some days it would start feel better like she was over the hump, and she would try to do stuff, but that just made it come back. I advised her that until she feels better off the meds then she doesn't need to be doing much. Anything that increased blood flow made it worse! My diagnosis was that she had barosinusitis. Finally she went to an ENT, and of course he told her that there was no sinus infection. She typed up the timeline of symptoms and events, he glanced at it, and then preceded to ask questions that had all the answers in what he just glanced at. He looked at her CT scan, said it looked fine, and when she asked about barotrauma he just shrugged it off like that had nothing to do with it. Again, she was told to see a neurologist. In the interim I got her some supplements such as grapefruit seed extract and oil of oregano since they are both anti-bacterial and anti-viral among other benefits, probiotics and a candida complex due to the massive killing of bacteria, including beneficial bacteria, from the Zpack, digestive enzymes to aid in complete digestion and minimize possible food allergies, and some anti-inflammatory agents like omega-3 and berries (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc). She was starting to feel good enough to stop the meds, but still had a dull headache. She was even starting to feel good enough to travel as she wanted to go see her grand babies. We left to go to Alabama from Florida, and she noticed as we got into the higher elevation in Alabama that she felt some pressure release, which to me indicated some barotrauma. She went to her dentist, and told him what was going on. He said he knew exactly what it was 'cause he gets them sometimes when he flies, and that you could tell it was sinus related and not dental because it ached across all of her top teeth and not just one tooth or one side. He prescribed two super powerful anti-biotics. The first one she was supposed to take within a day knocked out the pain she was having in the back of her head. Unfortunately she started having severe side effects the second day so she stopped, consulted a pharmacist, and he agreed she should not continue taking them. He also told her that the second drug was even stronger, and that she should not take that one either. This did, however, indicate that the dentist was on target, and that she did have a bacterial infection even though her ER results said she didn't. So far everything is still pointing toward Barosinusitis. She went to go see a family friend that is also a chiropractor to see if maybe something needs to be adjusted. He recently completed a year long course in NRT, Nutritional Response Testing. He thought from what she told him that she should go through the NRT exam. NRT is very interesting, but doesn't include a bunch of lab tests to tell you what you have as much as find out what supplements will make you better. It can tell you general problems, but can't tell which strain of bacteria or parasite you have. They may have some more specific tests, but I am just recently learning of NRT myself so I am not aware of any as of now. One thing the test did reveal was that an anti-bacterial supplement, and enzymes would improve her health. She isn't completely out of the woods yet, but is almost there. She still has a dull ache toward the top of her head. She can't take too much right now as her body can only handle removing so much at once without making it feel drained. I believe she is scheduled to see a neurologist next week, and get an MRI before her HSA rolls into a new 12 month cycle in September. I doubt they will be of any benefit, but better to get them while they're covered instead of needing them after the rollover and then having to pay 100% of it until she runs over the annual deductible.

I hope sharing some of this info helps you in your journey to get well.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you for sharing your mother's story.  I hope they will be able to find out the cause and treat it so that she can be well again.  You bring up a good point about the annual deductible for insurance.  I have already met my deductible so I will continue the coverage before the next rollover.

I saw the neurologist last friday and he still does not know what is wrong.  He said he will treat it as "radiant migranes (migraines)" and prescribe me two new meds (atenolol and treximet).  I have not filled these prescriptions because i do not feel that he is treating the symptoms properly and the treximet is really expensive. I also heard a crackling sound (like paper crumbling) in my ear last week.  The neurologist didn't check my ears but told me to go see an ENT for it.  

Since last Friday, I stopped taking the indomethacin, ultram, and zanaflex (previous meds).  I am not as dizzy but still have these headaches (pain) that comes and goes through out the day.  Sometimes I feel light headed too.  I noticed that the pounding and pain comes most when there is pressure to the head and when I am holding my breath.  For example, when i tell someone a stressful story or when i get really angry, I can feel the blood rising into my head and some pressure, then my head starts to pound.  I have to stop, take some deep breathes, and try to relax.  Also, yesterday I went to the gym to workout on the machines.  When I start to intensify the reps, I held my breath to push that last couple of turns.  I felt some pounding rising in my head.  I immediately stopped and walked around for a bit.  That seemed to calm things down.  Then I felt light headed.  

A friend of mine shared his story when he went skydiving years ago.  He too had pain in his head.  When he landed, he pinched his nose and blew out his ears.  He heard a hiss sound releasing from his ears and felt better after a couple of hours.  With this in mind, I am planning to revisit the ENT.  During the first visit, my chief complaint was sinuses.... and so he checked my sinuses and briefly checked my ears.  This time I will ask him to focus more on the ears and possibly the lymph nodes as well.  

I just hope someone can find out what is the cause and treatment for this (it is going on 4 weeks now)!  Again, thanks for the support and stories.  It really helps me not to give up.  =)    
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Avatar_m_tn
Hello,

The first thing that struck me about your description was that obviously air pressure started everything.  Secondly, you mentioned having terrible headaches after a bowel movement (people often do a valsalva maneuver - like holding your nose, shutting your mouth, and blowing to make your ears pop).  Holding your breath causes similar results.

Methylpresisolone relieves migraine and cluster-headache related headaches almost every time, and indomethacin relieves hemicranias.  Oxycodone and other opiates, along with other anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, should help sinus and tension headaches.  It looks like you were given the full first-line list of treatments for the most common headaches.

If I were you, I'd focus on finding a high-quality headache specialist (neurologist) and maybe another ENT.  As many headache sufferers know, not all doctors are created  equal, so seek the best if you (or your insurance) can afford it.

Treximet is just Naproxen and Imitrex (sumatriptan).  Imitrex (nasal or injections) are expensive ($20 each for me), but they are very effective at aborting individual headaches, and if they work then that could help the diagnosis of a vascular-type headache like migraines.

I've been suffering from extreme headaches since May, 2000, and it took 7.5 years to get a proper diagnosis, so don't even think about giving up yet!  Your best bets are keeping detailed logs of headaches (duration, pain level, possible triggers like BM, and ANY other symptoms that you may not think are related like dizzyness), and then seeing a really good headache specialist.

As a side-note, I suffer from cluster headaches, and one of the defining characteristics is that headache cycles are triggered by barometer changes (air pressure).  This is because they are thought to originate in the hypothalmus, which controls the annual "clock" and triggers various hormonal changes with the changing of seasons.  However, your description of the headaches as pounding and throbbing doesn't match up with cluster headaches (which are more of a stabbing, burning, and constant pain).  If you're having any other symptoms right before, during, or after headaches, like dizzyness or sweating or tearing in your eye or runny nose/congestion (or anything else at all), these could be useful in getting a proper diagnosis from a good headache specialist.
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Avatar_n_tn
Your friend's story sounds like a classic case of barotrauma. The fact that this pain you're having started with a change in barometric pressure, and your symptoms are common with barotrauma such as dizziness, crackling in your ear, and headache / migraine, in my opinion, clearly indicates you are also suffering from barotrauma. Had you popped your ears during the fall it probably would have resolved that day too. I'm not as confident as to whether you also have an infection, but barotrauma is more common when there is congestion / infection present.

If you haven't done any googling on barotrauma here are some links:
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/ear-barotrauma/overview.html
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1346929/the_symptoms_of_ear_barotrauma.html?cat=70

My mom went to see the neurologist this week, and she explained everything to him. It was a very thorough hour long consultation. Prior to her visit she started feeling some pressure building causing increasing pain. She started praying, and then her ear popped. The pressure decreased, the pain subsided, and the volume of her sound machine to help her sleep increased. The neurologist concluded that she was experiencing headaches due to the barometric pressure change. If you recall, the ENT completely dismissed that notion. The neurologist agreed that her CT scan did not show any signs of a sinus infection, but did believe that she must of had some sort of infection due to the swelling of her lymph nodes, and the improvement in her condition after taking one of the antibiotics the dentist prescribed. One side note to point out was that he also noticed some calcification of an artery on the same CT scan that everyone else looked at, but failed to see / mention. She is better, but not 100% yet. She went to get an MRA today.

I'm not a big fan of man's meds, but the one med you might want to try that did help my mom's condition is Flonase. She had stopped taking it because if there is a side effect my mom will experience at least one of them. Flonase is used for headaches, but it can also cause headaches. She was experiencing some headaches, and thought that there seemed to be a correlation as to when she used Flonase and when the onset of a headache occurred. However, the neurologist recommended her to take Flonase to relieve the remaining pressure.

Like ChappyCH mentioned, all doctors are not created equally. Try a different ENT and / or neurologist. Some of those meds they put you on are just down right nasty. I'm glad you discontinued them.

I hope this helps, and don't give up. Keep us posted on your progress, and what helps your condition improve.
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Avatar_n_tn
i skydived from 15k ft and my head was pounding all the way down, it must be the sudden change in pressure.
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Avatar_f_tn
Omg I had the exact same thing happen to me after sky diving. I was rushed to the ER twice for pounding headache and all my tests came out good. I want to find out what is wrong with me!! Please keep me updated...
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Avatar_f_tn
I had the exact same thing happen to me after skydiving and felt the pressure just as u did. I was rushed to the ER for pounding headaches.  I have had two episodes since and a my testing came out fine. My story is the exact same as yours, I don't know what is wrong with me. Please keep me posted on what they find with you. I have another dr appt tomorrow.
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Avatar_n_tn
I also had this happen to me today after skydiving for my first time and my head still hurts into the night. (No ER or doctor visits yet tho, as i assume the same that my tests will come back with nothing)

Any update on how long the headaches will last?
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