Wednesday, October 01, 2008 LeighAnn, Community Member, asks

Q: RA & Headaches

I have been having a lot more headaches lately (for the past several months) but over the last few weeks I have noticed I have been getting more intense headaches. They hurt so bad I feel sick to my stomach, moving or sitting up makes me feel like I will throw up. I have yet to start any RA medication so its not a side effect of any medications - and the headaches don't seem to respond to normal Advil. I've gone as far as to take Lortab a few times, while it dulls it the headache doesn't go away. I usually have to put an ice pack on my head and go to bed. So I am just wondering if the headaches are related to RA or just some random lovely new issue I get to deal with now. (as if RA wasn't enough - LOL). :)



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Answers (6)
Sara Nash, Health Guide
10/ 1/08 10:30am

HI LeighAnn,


It sounds to me like you are having migraines -normally described as prolonged headaches that don't respond to traditional pain meds and are accompanied by nausea and/or light sensitivity.  I also get migraines, and what you described sounds very familiar to me.  My migraines predate my RA, but ever since I have developed RA, they have begun to increase in frequency and intensity.  My neurologist and my rheumatologist don't think they are directly connected to RA, but might be indirectly connected from increased stress and the increased tension in my neck, which is due to RA.


I would suggest that you go to see a neurologist so that you can get some basic tests done.  Your neurologist will also be able to prescribe better medications for migraines so that when you feel one coming on, you can hopefully ward it off.  I now take a medication only when I feel one coming on, and it has been really helpful. After all, if you are already dealing with pain and fatigue from RA, the last thing you need is to deal with these migraines, too!  It's important to find a way to manage and/or prevent them so that you can spend your energy on treating your RA.


My neurologist also had me start taking 250mg of magnesium every day as magnesium has been shown to aid in neurological disorders, including headaches and migraines.



Feels like the TinMan, Community Member
10/ 1/08 11:50am

hi Leigh Ann,

i'd been having what i figured were migraines (only having had one in my lifetime, when i was pregnant).  I started getting these migraines a few years ago (long before RA).  At first i was convinced i had mold in my house because my AC condensation line broke up in the attic and leaked all over my ceiling but we didn't catch it for a week.  we got it fixed but i was sure it was mold.  well, then we sold our home, and moved and guess what...ANOTHER headache.  then i convinced myself  that it was carbon monoxide poisoning because we had gas heat this time.  well, i bought carbon monoxide detectors and well, it's not that.  what's funny, is these headaches start at 2:30 am every time. they start with severe nightsweats and then they wake me up and my head hurts so bad that i can't lay down. i have to get up, and for some odd reason, watching TV seems to ease the pain.  I used to take advil or tylenol, whatever was in the medicine chest. then about 15 mins later, i start sweating again, i get antsy, and then i vomit...happens everytime.  anyway, it takes about 3 doses of pain reliever to finally elimnate the pain (by early afternoon).  at my wit's end, i finally started tracking them thinking it was something i ate or drank......month after month....then it made sense...DAY 7 of my menstrual cycle!  so now i know when i'm going to get one and on top of living with RA, now i have to deal with these hormone, that's my headache story.  start tracking them, they might be just hormones...i guess it's called perimenopause now a days *sigh*.   ~desiree

bon410, Community Member
10/ 2/08 10:29am

Hi Leigh Ann,

I have RA and daily migraines. Have taken Imitrex a long time but my doctor had me try Treximet with sumatriptan and an antiinflamatory in 1 pill. They have helped a lot and I don't have the severe migraines most of the time. Drs think some migraines are caused by inflamation in the vessels of the head, and I know some RA meds caused mine. I started having daily migraines when I was taking Methotrexate 15 years ago and they never stopped. Take the migraine med as soon as you feel the headache coming on so it doesn't get away from you. I also take Panlor for pain but it doesn't help headaches.

Good luck, Bon

Galen Gilchrist, Community Member
10/ 2/08 7:04pm

I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 45 years and have had migraines from the time of diagnosis. These headaches were dibilitating and I often felt as if I was going to throw up. Most of these headaches would last up to three days. The doctor gave me fiornal and that helped, but when it wore off the headache would return. I have often wondered if these headaches were in some way related to the arthritis. I know with all that goes along with the RA the last thing you need are severe headaches. I hope you find a solution and good luck on both fronts. - Galen

Never sitting still, Community Member
9/30/09 11:35am

Hi LeighAnn,  I'm 54 yrs old and have been dealing with RA since I was 13 .  I was finally diagnosed positive after my twin daughters wre born at the age of 42.  I was given all kinds of diagnosis's prior.  Many different specialists all over the country with moves from my husbands career that took us from place to place.  Always pretty much the same senario.  So many different and strange new symptoms come and go which can be very scarey.  My Heart truly goes out to you.  It's been a strange and uneasy ride with RA.  I'm experiencing the headaches myself now.  Do you have any neck involvment that you are noticing yet?   I would love to talk with you.  I have so many questions.  I've been a very private person and try not to talk about my disease because most people don.t want to talk about negative issues especially illness but my husband, I think had a hard time living with my disease.  Even though I tried to never complain or talk about it I'm sure it was hard to watch and decided to leave my girls and I.  So I thought maybe this is a positive thing to talk with someone who can kind of relate to some of  what comes with  a chronic disease such as RA.  I sure hope your feeling better today.  My daughters have a volleyball game today so I went and filled a RX for a Medrol pak this morning and began it so as to try and walk in the school to seem some what healty and not feel so self conscious as I walk across the gym floor.  I think the hardest thing about RA is seeing how my girl's are affected and everyone else whose close around you.  My hope for you is that you are young enough to have time for the new coming meds that they can come up with to conquer your RA so you can have quality and a wonderful long life!!!!!!!   Take care  Deborah

sabanfanman, Community Member
11/17/09 2:42pm

Hello.. I am a 42 year old father of three from Georgia. I have had SEVERE headaches for the past ten years or so. The only thing that seems to ease them is Imitrex injection. But I have said all along that there is something Underlying that is also giving me problems. This sounds crazy but as the weather changes, especially as LOW pressure moves into my area I have these attacks where I feel terrible. My hands swell, my face swells, and I can hardly get out of the bed. During this time my Headaches worsen and I have a hard time just existing as it seems every joint in my body hurts. Over the last few months my neck has gotten unbearable and I have spasms in the muscles of my neck. I have also watched as it started in one finger on my right hand and has spread to almost every finger on both hands. A couple of years ago ( when the nodules were only in one hand) I had some testing and they said that they did not think that I had RA. But I have gotten worse and worse and I live in misery now. Oh, and I had a doctor tell me when I broke my collarbone a few months ago that I had significant arthritis in my c5 vertebrae. Is the diagnosis in RA sometimes hard to make at first and Do you have any suggestions. This has just about destroyed my marriage as I have been unable to get any official answers. The only thing that helps me and it is a miracle drug is Medrol Dose Pak or Prednisone injection. 

canra, Community Member
11/27/09 7:53am

Wow!!! you just described my life!!! I have had no diagnosis but have like you seen a RA but she said she didnt think I had RA...same body joint soreness and headaches that now run my life.  Please post what you are doing to help me find my way through the medical system

Carrie, Community Member
1/31/10 6:03pm

I was diagnosed with RA a year ago and since have been put on numerous medications including prednisone, methotrexate, ebrel, and 9 cortisone shots in 11months! I log my pain daily especially when put on a new medication. I was put on the lowest dose of prednisone on January 2nd and on Jan 4th i started getting severe headaches, shortness of breath, weakness and i feel car sick all the time. A week later, loging my headache everyday i called my Dr and they wanted to see me right away...they said my blood pressure was high for me and to ween off the prednisone. It is the 31st of january and i still have a severe headache that will not go away. In the past week i have gone to the emergency room for a catscan, lumbar puncture, many blood tests, and an MRI. I am out of sick pay and been out from work for a week and a half. I still have no answers to why i have this headache that over the counter medications will not even help in the slightest. i was prescribed oxycodone but it either makes me sleep (no complaints there) or i stay awake but still have a headache but i'm unable to care that i have a headache. This is the worst month of my life so far. I am scheduled to get an ecocardiograghm of my heart thursday the 4th of Feb. I thought for sure i would feel better by now. I stopped taking my methotrexate to see if my headache would go away and it has not. I am sorry you have headaches and RA pain as well. I really hope we all get relief. I will pray for you!

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By LeighAnn, Community Member— Last Modified: 09/18/13, First Published: 10/01/08