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Avatar universal

24/7 Head Pressure - Lightheaded

Took a contractor job in Iraq. After 4-months, I was sick with extreme fatigue, head pressure, lightheaded and tinnitus. After getting over whatever illness I had in Iraq (lasted 3-4 weeks), I was left with constant painless head pressure, lightheaded and tinnitus. An Army ENT in Iraq thought the symptoms were left-over from a viral infection which could take months to heal.  When I came back from Iraq, I had a CT Scan, sinus x-rays and had a chiropractor work my back and neck for a month. The MDs ruled out a sinus infection or serious allergies. They gave me more pain medication (do not take), high BP med (do not have high BP) and a nasal spray thinking it was some type rhinitis or chronic headache. I took 3-months off at home to rest and relax in case it was burnout. Sometimes at night, I feel a painless throbbing in the back of my neck and lower head when it is on the pillow. Questions: 1) Can a viral infection take months/years to completely get over and can the head pressure lightheaded feeling be attributed to a post viral infection? 2) Can you develop a chronic headache without any history of headache and have just pressure without pain? The prescription meds did nothing for head pressure.  
18 Responses
Avatar universal
First of all, keep in mind that I am unable to diagnose you because I am unable to examine you, this forum is for educational purposes.
    Yes it can take that long to get over a viral labrynthitis (a viral infection of the inner-ear).  In addition, if your ear was damaged by a virus then this can disrupt your vestibular system, which causes chronic neck alignment problems and chronic headaches.  To evaluate whether you have had a viral labrynthitis more testing can be done by either a neurologist or an ENT including electro-nystagmogram, hearing screen, and vestibular testing.  I would also suggest a trial on a headache preventative medication (it will work if taken daily for 3-4 weeks, so be patient) such as elavil, topamax, nadolol, verapamil.
I hope this has been helpful.
Avatar universal
Not sure if Iraq has some sort of fungal respiratory things like Valley fever, which is common in desert areas in the USA.  It can cause viral like symptoms for ages.  Worth asking about.

Avatar universal
I feel compelled to tell you that for the last two years, my husband has experienced 24/7 head pressure....not headaches, but chronic PRESSURE. We've been through every test imagineable, and every doctor we thought could help him. No diagnosis, no help, and no relief for him. This past February we were very fortunate (yes, fortunate) to have his neurologist throw his hands up in the air and say, "I don't know what's wrong, so I can't fix it. But, I will not abandon you."

He then referred us to the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan (www.mhni.com). These folks have saved my husband's life. After two years of searching desperately for an answer, they had a diagnosis and a solution to his problems in seven days. His symptoms included: lightheadedness, ringing in ears, equillibrium problems, memory loss, coordination problems, and a strange inability to walk through stores or crowded places without being adversely affected by people passing him in the aisles. He described it as a "spacey" feeling, constantly, like his head was on drugs or just a lazy brain. I'll tell you that we were at our wit's end when we finally found MHNI.

Please look at their website and every place you see the word "headache", replace it with the word "pressure" and find out if you might be able to benefit from this wonderful facility.

We can't say enough about Dr. Saper and his staff. After seven days my husband was feeling better and he is now on his last leg of treatment. Seems that all his symptoms up his neck and into the back of his head creating the pressure etc., were referred by his cervical spine. His treatment required a two-week stay in the hospital while Dr. Saper's staff took complete control of my husband and his medications. I can tell you that we had film of every MRI, CT Scan, X-ray that was ever taken and these had all been shown to every doctor we had visited before MHNI. No one found anything out of the ordinary, or could give us a cause for my husband's chronic symptoms, until MHNI. Like you, my husband did all the steroids, nasal sprays, and even had sinus surgery, thinking all his symptoms were related to a deviated septum, or allergies. Nothing helped.

After two years of searching, we now finally have a cause and a treatment. I hope that maybe these folks will be able to give you relief.

Good luck.
Avatar universal
This message is for Joe West regarding her comments about her husband's diagnosis.

I have the same symptoms like your husband except I have a brain cyst that we just decovered last March 2007.  But my neurologist said that my symptons is not coinciding with the brain cyst type of symptoms.  And it has been 4 months now and have gone through several test and MRI but have not come up to a final diagnosis.  What was your husband's doctor's diagnosis? If you don't mind me asking.  I just need and answer and to an end of my symptoms (pressure and pain in my right brain and back of my neck, ringing in my ears, spacey type of feeling, floaters, etc.)  So, I can mention that to my neurologist and to my hematologist. Right now, they are still in the process of figuring out what's really wrong with me and what cause these bizarre symptoms.  I really hope to hear you soon.  
Avatar universal
The doctors determined that the facets in my husband's neck had been compromised, possibly by some oral surgery he had performed two years ago. During that procedure, the oral surgeon had put him under and then put his head in a sling when they did the oral surgery. Doctors at MHNI thought that while he was under maybe some injury could have happened, or it could have happened some time ago and symptoms just decided to appear. The facets in his neck created all his terrible symptoms. You can go online and find out what the cervical facets are, where they are located, and some of the symptoms they will create if they are diseased, have arthritis, or are irritated.

I don't know what a brain cyst is, so I cannot comment on that. You should do what your neurologist says, if that is his diagnosis. However, if it is not, I cannot stress enough that you get in contact with Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Saper, who runs the institute, was even featured on 20/20 a few years back because of the great success he is having with his treatments. GIVE THEM A CALL. If only someone would have told us about this great place sooner, we would not have gone through the nightmare we did, for TWO YEARS!!! If you have no quality of life with the symptoms that you are experiencing on a daily basis, GO TO THEIR WEBSITE. Ask your neurologist to refer you to them, but make sure your neurologist is in agreement. When you call them, they will ask you your symptoms and they will tell you right up front if they can help you or not. I just don't understand why neurologists don't know about this place. It took us too many doctors to finally find one who knew about Dr. Saper's institute, because the one that referred us had trained under Saper. I'm telling you, I don't know what we would be doing today if we hadn't found this place. After two years my husband can function close to normal every day. Before then, as I said before, he was just existing in a fog, and the symptoms just worsened over the last two years. No matter who he saw or what medication they gave him, it just kept getting worse. I don't know of any other place in the U.S. that does what MHNI does. Check them out on their website. I just can't say enough about them. If you read my previous post you know that no one else could figure this thing out, and they had it figured out in 7 days. Talk to your neurologist and see if he knows anything about this institute. It has literally saved my husband's life. But if you have a brain cyst??? whatever that is, I don't know if this place can help you or not. That's why it is important to ask your neurologist about MHNI. If he will refer you, then I strongly urge you to give them a call. There were so many people in the hospital with my husband who had been searching for a diagnosis to all their symptoms for many more years than we had. They were all thankful they had finally found a neurologist who knew something about this institute and got them there. I can't speak for you or your symptoms, but the cervical spine must play a very large role in what happens to our head and brain, like sending signals to the brain, letting the head know where it should be positioned in relationship to your surroundings, etc. Talk to your doctor. Good luck to you as I know what it is like to suffer day after day and think you are crazy because no one can figure out what is wrong with you. I watched my husband become a shell of a person over the last two years because of his situation, and it is like a weight has been lifted from me to finally get the old Joe back again. I give all the credit to MHNI and thank our neurologist in West Palm Beach for getting us there. When you go to MHNI.com, don't be put off by the use of the word "headache". My husband did not suffer from headaches, he had terrible head pressure. It didn't matter. They still figured it out.

But you need to remember to do what your doctor tells you to do. Sounds like he has a diagnosis of a brain cyst and you should trust him to do what is right. Unfortunately, until MHNI, NO ONE could give us a diagnosis, so you are very lucky in that respect. Let me know if you want to know anything more.

Joe's wife.
Avatar universal

I am 26 year old male with headaches 24/7 for about 4 months.  I've been to a GP who did blood work, etc and also ordered a CT scan and nothing came back as abnormal.  I have no history of headaches, certainly not every day like I am now experiencing.  I noticed your description of your husband's headache and it is similar to mine; a constant pressure/squeezing feeling on both sides of my head.  the pain is mostly near the top of my head.  No fever or auras accompany it.  I do experience a bit of nausea and unsteadiness at times.

My question is: was your husband's headache related to the vertebrae in his neck?  I am now seeing a chiropractor to try and solve the problem, who ran a test a told me my C2 and C3 vertebrae are compressed and might be causing the headaches.  However, I've had five sessions with her and nothing seems to be improving.

I checked out the website www.mhni.com but I live in GA so that is a last resort.  I keep coming back to the feeling that it is not a traditional headache and is more of a pressure/squeezing feeling.  Whatever it is, it is miserable.
Avatar universal
EVERYTHING going on in my husband's head was all being referred by his neck. Michigan performed two radio frequency destructions of the facet joint nerves in which they "stunned" the nerves on both sides of his neck. As I understand, these nerves that they isolated for "stunning" are treated with heat and eventually "deactivate" so as to not refer any pain or pressure to the head any more.

If you have looked at the MHNI site and see where they are located, you have to understand that people come from all over the United States, Canada, and other countries just to be a part of this two week treatment program. We flew up from Florida. All I can say is that knowing what we know now, we would have hitch-hiked if we had to, to get to that institute. We only wished it hadn't taken so long to find out about it. We wasted two years, and those two years have taken their toll on my husband's health, and some of those effects cannot be reversed.

I know finances are an issue for folks. But I know that we would have given our last cent to ANYONE who could diagnose and treat my husband's symptoms. To say that Michigan is a last resort is an enormous mistake. If you feel anything like my husband did, you owe it to yourself to make the phone call to MHNI. I CANNOT TELL YOU ENOUGH, that this place saved his life. He was, at times, on the verge of not wanting to wake up the next morning because he knew what the day held for him and how badly he was going to feel. We have no affiliations with MHNI, only to give credit to them for everything they have done. I can sit here and try to tell you of what we went through and my husband's misery until we found this institute, but if you don't call them to see if they can help you, then either you are not understanding what I'm saying, or you don't feel as badly as my husband did. These doctors are geniuses, and if you don't get treatment from them, then you will CONTINUE to search for someone who can give you relief. Take your pick. And yes, it's a BIG commitment. If they say they can help you, it is a two-week hospital stay. You are under their complete care until they determine what is wrong with you and how they are going to help you. Fortunately, our insurance company was terrific. Good luck to you and hopefully you can find help. Maybe the two of you who have questioned me are not on the same page as my husband. HE WAS MISERABLE, had no quality of life, and suffered every day for the last two years. Nothing took away the pressure, ear ringing, spaciness, except when he laid his head down on the pillow at night. The next morning when he lifted his head, it all started over again. If you're not to that point yet, then you really don't understand what I'm trying to say. His medical issues took two years out of our lives, and put us through hell. All we knew was that it wasn't getting better, no one could find anything wrong, and every day was worse than the day before.

Hopefullly these two posts will help someone who is desperate, just as we were, to find some relief for their loved one. I can only speak from our experience and how fortunate we are to have finally found help.
Avatar universal
I've been suffering from symtoms like your husbands plus anxiety and panic attacks. It all started in FEB 07'. It started with a full blown panic attack of which i have never had before. The panic symptoms never went away. When i had an MRI done in march they found a mass of fluid in my sphenoid sinus. This mass looked as if it was pressing on my pituitary gland and optic nerves. Anyway, I had sinus surgery in march but still have the same symptoms. At the time of the MRI they also found three herniated disc in my neck which they said was causing no problems. I've been to several neurologist which just passed me along to the next doctor diagnosing me with PTSD and GAD. They put me on ativan and i am now seeing a therapist.
None of this has helped and i still am having the same symptoms of not feeling like myself, pressure in the forehead and behind the eyes. My vision feels like a mix of tunnel vision and being intoxicated. I am fatigued all the time, still have that spacey feeling.
My question for you is did your husband experience any visual problems? did he experience any anxiety or panic attacks? did he feel not normal/not like himself?
Avatar universal
Yes, he certainly did have vision problems. His family doctor sent him to an ophthalmologist because he was seeing double at times and could not judge changes in walking surfaces (depth of vision) so he stumbled a lot, and twice when he had the double vision he almost fell because he was close to passing out. Fortunately someone was there to break his fall. He often told me that his peripheral vision was not good. Of course the eye doctor didn't find anything wrong. He began to walk differently. He would pull to one side and have trouble walking on carpet or grass because I think by then he was dragging his feet and not realizing it.

He also had the sinus surgery. ENT told him that he couldn't guarantee this would help his symptoms, but he had a deviated septum so we went ahead with it. It relieved some of the pressure in his head, but that was about all.

Yes, he experienced anxiety and panic attacks. He would try to walk through a store or a mall and the activity around him put him in such a state that he had to leave. Cars passing us on the road caused his head to pound, and if he got an anxiety attack over something that didn't go right, etc., all his symptoms were exaggerated to the point that he just had to go lay down and try to settle down so he could make it through another day.

And not feeling like himself?????....he WASN'T himself!! He would yell at his friends, become short tempered, forget everything, and just get himself so worked up that he literally thought he was going crazy. And when the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with him, we began to wonder if he was losing his mind. Checked him out for a brain tumor, Alzheimer's....everything came back NORMAL.

And yes, he said he didn't feel well any time, toward the end. In the beginning he said he would wake up and maybe two days out of the week feel awful for the whole day. After two years, EVERY day he woke up he felt AWFUL for the whole day. That's why it's important to fix this thing early on. I know for a fact that his memory and his cognitive skills have diminished since this whole mess started two years ago, and he will never be able to get those back.

We're on the right track now. He's feeling so much better, and I think he improves daily. As far as I can understand, it was all due to the facets in his neck. I know it's crazy that something so simple could create a nightmare like we went through, but it did. EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR found nothing wrong with him, until we took him to MHNI. That's why I have to tell anyone I know with similar symptoms to get to the best and DON"T WASTE TIME. With my husband, the more time that passed, the worse it got.

Avatar universal
Joe west,  I have had a constant head pressure and feeling of tension in my forehead for 2 years, along with positional vertigo, and the same spacey feeling you describe.   PLEASE tell me what your husbands diagnosis was?  And what was the treatment?
Avatar universal
My husband had facet joint disease in his neck and occipital neuralgia. Radio frequency lesioning was admiinistered to both sides of his neck after a preliminary examination by the doctors at MHNI.

He had an anesthetic block previous to the radio frequency block and responded well to that, so they proceeded to the radio frequency block.

Again, this facet joint disease in his neck WAS NOT discovered by any of the other doctors who had looked at his x-rays or MRIs. It was the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute that finally found it. However, they make the determination as to whether you are a condidate for this kind of treatment.

I am attaching a link which describes the radio frequency blocks to educate you on what this procedure involves. Hope this helps.

Avatar universal
Joe, I'm exactly having the same symptoms dizziness, spacey feeling when I goto crowded places, pressure in my head and ears. I also have some numbness in legs and hands. Did you husband have any of these ? I feel better for 3-4 days and this appears again. I have been going to lot of doctors without any help. I feel so relieved to see that there's a diagonosis for this problem. I have been feeling frustrated with this problem for past 7 months.
Avatar universal
Many Thanks for your suggestion, very helpfu! lDid your hubby have PT or Botox for his head pressure? Curious as I read it's one of the 1st steps before facet injections & radiofreq treatment.
Avatar universal
Did you find any treatment or help with your symptoms?
Avatar universal
Joe West, You still here? I spoke to the Michigan folks, very nice & helpful
Avatar universal
No real change.  Still have the same symptoms.  Not as intense as a few months ago.  Tried the elavil and take 25mg at night and have been for a few months.
Avatar universal
Some Neuro MD's throw out the obligatory Elavil at so many conditions they can't explain regardless of the side effects. Made my symptoms much worse.
221122 tn?1323014865
Hi.  Your symptoms sound EXACTLY like mine.  I was beginning to think I was crazy.  My doc told me it is all anxiety, and although I know I've suffered from anxiety for about 30 years, I also know when anxiety is causing something and when something is causing anxiety so I am a little miffed.  I am a registered nurse and am not stupid, but feel I am getting no relief.  My life is so bad that I just lost my job and do not know what to do.  I don't know how to get to this facility since I must exhaust all possibilities around here and that will be hard.  Just getting into appointments takes a long time and as soon as they hear anxiety, they think that is it!  Since I lost my job I do not know how long I will be able to have insurance and an income so my life feels, basically, over.  I went from being an intelligent nurse to a dishrag.

I wanted to say that I have had many neck problems over the years and recently, my neck started to get a grating noise every once in a while for a few months.  I did, however, look up the cervical facet syndrome symptoms and I did not find my (our) symptoms listed.  Can you tell me where they might be found?  

I do appreciate your writing here and hope you are still around.
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