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Debilitating Migraines Gone Thanks to Peripheral Nerve Surgery

Excruciating Migraines Wreaked Havoc on Dana’s Life

Dana flying high

My patient Dana S is sharing her story of overcoming migraines. She endured decades of debilitating pain that compromised her life in countless ways. Luckily, I was able to help her. For that I am grateful.

Here is her journey in her own words.

Plagued by Pain

My name is Dana. I have had headaches since I was five years old, with a formal diagnosis of a migraine at age 8. For many years, my migraines were bi-monthly with nausea and vomiting. They were severe on the pain scale but controlled by medications.

As I got older my migraines became much more frequent and increasingly severe. Migraine medications alone no longer controlled my pain or nausea and vomiting. Severity and frequency increased as the years went by and I became hopeless. I spent a lot of time in urgent care and our local emergency room because often my medications were not strong enough. I spent days in bed surrounded by darkness.

For many years doctors felt I had a muscular issue along with my migraines. I developed nagging pain on both sides of my neck that was present with and without a migraine. The pain never went away and it was exhausting. I slept on ice nightly to help numb the pain.

Missing Out on the Joy

My pain interfered with every aspect of my life. My friends could tell I was in pain as soon as they looked at me and my family came to expect this as my normal look.

I am married and have a 17-year-old daughter. I am also a kindergarten teacher. My daughter is an athlete and I missed many important games and activities. I did not want her friends at our house. My relationships were negatively impacted as I couldn’t be counted on to follow through.

Dana suffered from migraine headaches for many years. The headaches impacted her life with her husband and teenage daughter.

I would drag myself out of bed in pain each day to do what I could but often returned from work at 4 or 5 pm and went straight to bed, experiencing very little joy in my life.  Interacting with my family did not happen as it should have and I felt awful for letting them down.  I felt like a failure in all that I did. Frequently at work, I would have to request someone to watch my class because I was sick to my stomach or because my words were slurred and even sometimes said backward.

Desperate for Relief

Through the years I tried a plethora of treatments, including biofeedback, acupuncture, exercise, massage, physical therapy, spinal manipulation, chiropractic care and too many medications to list.

I gave myself injections, nausea and pain medication to get through the day. I often fought with doctors to receive treatment as many over the years viewed migraines as a drug-seeking excuse. I’ve cried and pleaded with doctors to believe me, have taken doctors notes and letters of diagnosis with me and while I usually ended up receiving treatment it often came with stern words that I needed to go to my neurologist or pain doctor, whom by the way do not work past five or on weekends and in the case of the neurologist, took three months or more to get into.

Migraines don’t follow a schedule. When you experience that intense pain you just want it to end. I remember praying that I would just die as I couldn’t stand it.

I’d already undergone a disc replacement, an occipital stimulator implant, a hysterectomy, hospitalizations and years of nerve blocks and radiofrequency lesioning (nerve burning).

I was unlucky in finding a neurologist that was helpful.  Each one wanted to run the exact same tests and try the same medications in differing combinations and dosages but there was no reduction in my pain.

Finding Dr. Tollestrup

A wonderful pain management doctor, Dr. Erkulwater, suggested a nerve specialist and had heard of Dr. Tollestrup. So off I went to see him.

Dr. Tollestrup thought I was a good candidate for an occipital nerve excision. It was a true fight getting my insurance to approve this but after waiting three years I finally had the opportunity to move to my husband’s insurance and it was approved immediately.  I had surgery within three weeks of that date.

During the surgery, Dr. Tollestrup disconnected six nerves and sewed grafts on. The nerves disconnected were the greater, lesser and 3rd occipital nerves.

Dr. Tollestrup disconnected 6 nerves and sewed grafts on. The nerves were the greater, lesser and 3rd occipital nerves.

One Giant Leap

It’s been 2 months since my surgery and I have not felt this good for years!!   I am not waking up in pain every day or taking pain medication on a regular basis. My migraines are much less frequent.

“My head feels clear. I am excited to be an active participant in my life,  giving 100% to my family, friends, and students.  I am managing my household and I am not missing work at all!”

Since my surgery, I even checked an item off my bucket list— skydiving! It was the most incredible experience!

I can’t thank Dr. Tollestrup enough! My life began again after surgery. Even though the recovery process, I never doubted I’d made the right decision. While part of my head is permanently numb, I barely notice it.

This surgery has already given me more pain-free days than anything else in the 45 years I’ve struggled.  As I turn 50 this next month, I give thanks to all who have helped me through the trying times. I know I will never be 100 % free of migraines and that I may even experience some nerve pain, but the relief I have now is worth more to me than any words could express.


If you or someone you love suffers from migraines Dr. Tollestrup can help. Fill out a form on the right side of this page or call the office at 702-666-0463.


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