The stress of life is omnipresent and is unique for every individual. For headache sufferers, stress can be a major trigger and has been particularly linked to tension-type headaches, also known as "stress headaches." Sometimes, it's the simple things we do in life that help our health most. Eating nutritious foods at regularly scheduled times, exercising, relaxing, and sleeping are vital activities that unfortunately often get lost or pushed to the side in our busy lives.
Let's slow down today and take care of our needs. You might even prevent that looming weekend headache.
You know that tightening, pressure-like sensation around your head that you develop when you skip breakfast or miss a good night of sleep. This is a tension headache, the most common headache type. I used to get them all the time during medical residency with my erratic hours. Usually a cup of coffee and a dose of ibuprofen cured them, but not always. Please refresh your memory on the basics of tension headache in my article 10 Facts about Tension Headaches.
I am perturbed when I hear people state "facts" about medical conditions that are just not true. It is hard sometimes to not take it personally, especially if you suffer from the very condition they are speaking so matter-of-fact about. But, then I remember that these are not spiteful comments, just poorly researched or not well thought through. I am sure I have been guilty of it myself.
Caring for a colicky baby can be a heart-racing, exhausting journey. We all want to comfort and soothe our newborns, but sometimes their crying and fussiness seem inconsolable. A recent study in JAMA shows evidence connecting migraines and colic in newborns. Please read a summary of the article in "Is There a Link Between Migraines and Colic in Babies?"
If you are a migraineur, did your parents tell you that you were colicky as a baby? Please share your story!
Concussions are frightening experiences and something parents, in particular, fear for their children, who play in contact sports. In fact, news reports have shown that there has been a decline in the number of children playing sports, like football, where concussions are an all too common occurrence. Headaches can be a complicating factor in concussion and are often associated with other symptoms like mood disturbances or memory loss. Headaches too can last up to three months after the injury, which negatively affects one's quality of life. Please read my article What is a Concussion Headache? to learn more about this mild brain injury, and the headache that can occur as a result.
Have you ever suffered from a concussion? What were your symptoms? Do you still suffer as a result of a prior concussion? Please share your story.
One of my readers kindly emailed me regarding an update on the medical device CerenaTMS that was recently approved (but not yet available in the US) by the FDA. eNeura is the company in California that manufactures the CerenaTMS and now the SpringTMS. From my understanding, the SpringTMS is like a second-generation device, if you will, that operates in the same fashion as the CerenaTMS.
The update is that eNeura just filed a 510(k) with the FDA for the SpringTMS. A 510(k) is also known as a PMN or Premarket Notification, meaning that device manufacturers have to submit a 510(k) to the FDA at least 90 days in advance of marketing their product.
Chief Executive Officer of eNeura, David Rosen, reported, "SpringTMS provides more user-friendly features compared to CerenaTMS, including a more compact size and shape, better portability and greater ease of use for the patient. We are optimistic that the SpringTMS will launch in 2014, having the advantage of improving upon our FDA-cleared predicate device."
Obviously this is exciting news for migraineurs out there, especially those who have been refractory to more conventional therapies.
I will try to follow this and keep you all updated as best as I can.
I vividly remember a particularly cruel migraine with aura attack when I was a senior resident. I was typing my last patient note of the day at my computer when I developed the onset of bilateral visual changes. Shimmering lights moved across my visual field, and all the letters on my computer screen blurred. At the moment I was typing, I was also simultaneously speaking to a colleague. I continued the conversation, knowing that I was only experiencing an aura. This was a true sign of my type A personality, never wanting anything to get in my way of my tasks! The visual changes gradually marched across my field of vision and were then followed by a tingling in my left shoulder. This tingling moved down my arm and was followed by numbness and a prickly sensation. After the tingling/numbness occurred, I decided I better shut the computer down, politely end my conversation, and go lay down in a call room in anticipation of a headache.
Even as a physician and a migraineur (although mine are rare these days, I cannot empathize enough with those you suffer more frequently), I was thrown off by this experience. Let's be honest, auras can be just plain scary.
Recently, I decided to write an article defining exactly what a migraine with aura is, according to the criteria set forth by the International Headache Society. You might be interested (and surprised) by how an aura is defined. For example, it cannot last longer than an hour. Meaning, if your symptoms do, than you want to seek medical attention because your presumed aura could really be something else, like a stroke.
If you are a sufferer of migraines, you can learn more about migraine medications in, "What Medication Should I Take For My Migraine?" and "What Medication Should I Take to Prevent My Migraines?"
In addition to reading these articles, please share your "aura" experiences and what your next steps are when one begins.
If you suffer from migraines with auras and have found your medical and/or behavioral therapies to be lacking lately, then this newly approved therapy may interest you. In December, the FDA approved a handheld medical device to treat migraines with auras. Please read more about this unique therapy in my article, "Medical Device to Treat Migraines" and refresh you memory on what exactly an aura is in my article "What is a Migraine Aura?"
Have any of you spoken with your doctor about trying out the device? What is your opinion on this type of therapy? Do any of you know how much the device costs?
Tension headaches are common and cause a pressing sensation around the head like a rubber-band. I usually get them when I am sleep-deprived or skip a meal. The discomfort is variable and the "why" behind this type of primary headache disorder is largely unknown. Fortunately, they are typically treated with resolution of the trigger (sleep and food in my cases) and/or an over-the-counter medication, like Tylenol or Advil. I have sometimes been asked by patients which medication to take, "Advil or Tylenol?" So, here is my answer.
Finally, while episodic tension-type headaches are almost always effectively treated at home, chronic tension-type headaches necessitate a trip to the doctor. These headaches occur >15 days per month for >3 months and can be particularly debilitating and frustrating to treat.
Remember, always speak with your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication to make sure it is safe. Also, if you find yourself self-treating your headaches regularly, please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
We are all probably familiar with the term "phobia" and correlate it with conditions like arachnophobia, which is fear of spiders. Phobias too can involve fear of situations, like social phobia, where an individual fears social situations, or agoraphobia, in which an individual fears leaving their home. In response to this intense fear, individuals will go to great lengths to avoid that specific object or situation.
You may be surprised to learn that some people develop a fear over having a headache and will often overuse medications in order to avoid its onset. This is called cephalalgiaphobia. It can be a debilitating condition and not only creates extreme anxiety for the sufferer but may actually worsen the headache cycle.
Please read more about this in my article Fear of Headaches. Do any of you take medication because of your fear of developing a headache attack before it even occurs?