Mysterious random pains
June 8, 2014 8:14 PM   Subscribe

You are not my doctor … but: Off and on for about 30 years, I have had random pinpoint pains. They first started in my head and my legs/hips. Now they are anywhere in my body. They are of basically three types: shooting or stabbing pains (these are the most severe), pinpricks, and the feeling that I am being hit mildly to moderately with a hammer. They are all quick, momentary.

The pains went away last year for the first time, for six to nine months. I don’t know why they went away, but they are back and more frequent, about 20 a day. They don’t seem to be linked to anything.

M.D.s have no explanation and don’t seem to care. I have also seen doctors of oriental medicine, with no relief. I read somewhere that melatonin might be good for this. I take 5 mg daily, and I still get the pains.

I am a 51-year-old otherwise healthy woman. I have no history of seizures or neurological disorders that I am aware of. I do have Asperger syndrome. I was a hyperactive child. I think I have been hit in the head a couple of times with a ball while playing sports.

Do you have any idea what might help?
posted by maurreen to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some aspects sound like neuralgia or this thing. They don't quite match but could be a good starting point for managing the symptoms.
posted by ddd at 8:21 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Subclinical deficiencies (i.e. bottom of the "normal" range) are still a problem for some people. Get checked for B12. Anything under 400 is low enough to signal a possible deficiency that can cause symptoms like this, even though the stated bottom of the range is 250. Get checked for Vitamin D3. Anything under 30 is a potential problem. Make sure you're getting the right test, as well: 25(OH)D, not 1,25(OH)₂D.

Conversely, if you're supplementing regularly already with vitamins and minerals, levels that are too high can cause neurological problems as well.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:42 PM on June 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have been getting "icepick headaches" my entire adult life -- and they pretty much started right when I turned 18. Each is simply a sharp stabbing pain in specific spot on my head (always the same spot), lasting about one second. I can get just one an hour, or have them every 20 seconds for a whole day. Each is utterly debilitating -- like a sneeze, in that it's a bit dangerous when one hits while I'm driving.

They seem to correlate to when I'm sick. One time 3 years ago I had a really bad flu or something and had them constantly for a couple days.

After that episode, I saw my doctor about it, who shrugged and gave me some powerful pain meds. It never struck that bad again, and so I've never taken the meds.

Fortunately the episodes only come once or twice a year now.

I do expect that one day my head will explode or something.
posted by intermod at 8:45 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you've been suffering for decades, perhaps its time to do something drastic.

Go on one of those food diets to see if something you are eating is causing it.

Maybe dairy, wheat, plants, meat, something would be causing this...try to eliminate things to figure out what it may be.

You can do this in a science-oriented way, or a woo-woo way. Its up to you the way you do this.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:39 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ditto on having your B12 level checked. Some of us as we age progressively lose the ability to absorb sufficient B12 through diet, sometimes even with oral supplements. Low B12 can cause all kinds of weird neuralgic blow-back including the Aunt Martha Jabbing You With A Hatpin Effect...
posted by jim in austin at 4:33 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I like hal_c_on's idea. I would suggest expanding the scope of your self-experimentation beyond simply eliminating foods. Try different things -- and make sure you keep careful written records of what you did, exactly, on what date (these records will be key to making valid conclusions). Try eliminating foods (or adding new ones), adding supplements, sleeping longer, doing stretches or yoga, getting more exercise -- whatever you can think of that might have an impact on your symptoms. This self-experimentation process might take some time, and might be a bit tedious, but you will hopefully find out that works and what doesn't work.
posted by alex1965 at 5:02 AM on June 9, 2014

Also, an additional pro-tip: if you are in fact experiencing neuropathy secondary to a nutritional deficiency, talk to your doctor (because there can be side effects and interactions) about also adding an Omega 3/fish oil supplement to assist with the repair process.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:20 AM on June 9, 2014

It sounds like it may be Fibromyalgia. My body pain, in 2002, started in one of the fingers in my left hand and gradually increased to my entire body. I saw 35 doctors over a period of 6 months, had every test imaginable, and no one knew what the problem was. Finally, I saw an orthopedist who changed my life. He said to me, "I can't help you. What you need is a Rheumatologist, and here's the name of the person who you should see ___________." That's what did it for me. And so began my 6 month recovery period. Body pain is now under control with no meds. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by htm at 8:46 AM on June 9, 2014

The suddenness and intensity sound similar to the symptoms of "adverse neural tension".

Nerves are "tethered" to the skeleton at certain points, and they also pass through, under, around etc a lot of other tissue (muscle, fascia, organs). Nerves, as with all other body parts, slide around a bit inside a sheath. If the sheath suffers some irritation (the cause of the irritation could be trauma, perhaps diet, maybe something completely different), then the nerve can stick to the inside of the sheath. When you move around, a movement that might not irritate a nerve might irritate a sticky nerve.

Some people seem to be more susceptible to neural tension issues than others.

A physical therapist can show you a technique called "nerve gliding" or "nerve flossing", that unsticks the nerves and helps them move around. This is especially important where nerves (and blood vessels) go around corners, such as your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees.

It would be worth a try to at least rule out a mechanical source for your pains.
posted by flutable at 12:18 AM on June 15, 2014

Thanks for all your answers.

I am already taking more than the recommended minimum for B12. But I marked that by DDD as a best answer because it was the most scientific and seemed plausible.

Another best answer I marked was about the "ice pick headaches," because that most closely described my symptoms. The stabbing pains are debilitating.

My wife thinks stress might be a factor with my pains. I have some doubt about that, but I will ask a doctor about that after we move next week. I will also ask about indomethacin, which I have seen recommended a few places.
posted by maurreen at 8:34 PM on June 17, 2014

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