For headaches, lifestyle changes may be better than doctor visits.
Terry Bradford suffered a headache in his life. Some days, she says, the pain is so bad, “by 11 a.m., I’m sitting in a dark room with my head on the ice.”
“I have two spinal taps and I have a lot of nerve blocks, and I’ve lost count.”
For years, Bradford, 50, who lives in Bedford, mass., searched desperately for pain. She went to the doctor numerous times. “I’ve had all of my stuff twice,” she said. “I have two spinal taps and I have a lot of nerve blocks, and I’ve lost count.”
Bradford is not alone. It is estimated that 12 million americans go to the doctor each year for a headache. Nearly a quarter of the population suffers from repeated episodes of severe tension headaches or migraines.
People who go to hospitals because of a headache are increasingly likely to be sent for advanced testing and treatment, a study has found. Dr. John murphy, lead researcher at beth Israel deaconess medical center in Boston, said the tests are expensive, may not be necessary, and may even be harmful.
Mafi studied advanced imaging rates such as CT scans and MRI for headache patients, as well as recommendations to other doctors, presumably experts. He found that between 1999 and 2010, the number of diagnostic tests increased from 6.7 percent of all doctors visits to 13.9 percent. At the same time, the rate of referral to other doctors increased from 6.9% to 13.2%. In other words, almost twice as many as ten years ago.
Murphy says it’s not because more people have a headache. The incidence of headaches has remained almost constant over the past decade. But supply and demand have changed. Today, there are more advanced diagnostic machines than a decade ago, and more patients are required to be tested.
“There is a subconscious view that more valuable, more expensive tests are better, and better care.”
Dr. John murphy.
“Patients are more confident than ever,” Mr. Murphy said. “They do research online, they know more, sometimes they go to the doctor, ‘I think I need MRI. ‘” ”
Despite the good news, Mafi sometimes says patients are wrong. “I think there is a subconscious feeling that the more the better, the more valuable, the more expensive tests are better, which equals better care.”
The Mafi study did not include patients with tumors or other serious problems that could cause headaches. He only looked at healthy patients with chronic headaches. In these cases, repeated diagnostic tests may lead to further unnecessary operations, such as biopsies.
For terri Bradford, the search for effective treatment proved futile. “I went to four neurologists, and many of them gave up on me because I didn’t get better,” she said.
Eventually, Bradford finally worked at beth Israel deaconess medical center, and a neurologist, Carolyn Bernstein, directed the integrated headache center. Bernstein says she sees a lot of desperate patients like Bradford. “Most of them did suffer for years, and they were really miserable,” Mr. Bernstein said. They say, ‘I hope you have a magic pill’, of course, no magic pill. ”
Although we know that migraines have a genetic component and are often triggers, the cause of chronic headaches is not the only reason. “If you’re a migraine sufferer, I’ll let you get the right trigger and you’ll get a migraine,” says Bernstein.
But triggers are different for different people. They may include poor diet, too much sugar, or certain types of alcohol. Sleep, stress, lack of exercise or any combination of these things can lead to chronic headaches.
At the headache center, patients receive detailed medical records, including headache patterns, disability and emotional assessments. The center then works with patients to try to determine what causes their headaches and how they can avoid them in the future.
Some people find relief through exercise. “I might write exercise prescriptions as often as I write a drug prescription,” says Bernstein. She admits that it is sometimes hard to encourage a patient with a headache to get up and exercise. But even if it helps, according to Bernstein, it doesn’t have to jog for miles. It can be yoga, tai chi, or even just a little stretching.
A big lifestyle adjustment worked for terri Bradford. She started exercising, changed her diet, and gave up gluten, dairy and sugar. She learned how to meditate to relieve stress. All of these changes, she says, have caused great changes. She had a much smaller headache, and when she had it, it was less severe. “I’ve finally recovered,” she said.