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Help, My Head Hurts

Headaches can be more than just a pain in your head. They can interrupt your daily activities at home and work, and can even become debilitating. Many people think throbbing headaches are a part of life, but they don’t have to be.

With an array of pain relievers and new therapies being developed, there are more headache treatment options than ever before. Unfortunately, many headache sufferers have never received a formal diagnostic evaluation or treatment for their headaches.

“Headaches are very treatable, it’s often just finding what’s right for that person,” says Dr. Tarvez Tucker, director of the UK HealthCare Headache and Pain Clinic.

The most common headaches are tension type and migraine. Common symptoms of each are:

Tension type headaches
• Steady ache or pressure
• Felt on both sides of head
• Can be caused by stress, both physical and mental
• Can occur every day, called chronic daily headache

Migraine headaches
• Throbbing pain
• Usually felt on one side of the head
• Can cause nausea and sensitivity to light and sound
• Auras sometimes can be seen before pain begins, including brightly colored or blinking lights
• Potential disability because of intense pain

Unfortunately, migraines can also change or “transform” from once-in-a-while events to daily or nearly daily. “Migraine is actually the most common type of headache that brings a person to medical attention,” Tucker says. “It’s the headache that makes daily functions difficult.”

Headache triggers
Headaches have several common triggers, including stress, certain foods, odors, menstrual periods, sleep disruption, and weather changes. Emotional factors such as depression, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment can also trigger headaches.

If you have frequent headaches, talk to a specialist about preventing them rather than only treating symptoms as they occur. Tucker explains that most self-diagnosed sinus or stress headaches are actually migraines that can be effectively treated. “Most people respond well to preventive or immediate headache treatments, but many are simply unaware of their variety of options,” Tucker says.

New treatments
Many exciting treatment advances have been made for headaches, including Botox injections, trigger point injections, nerve blocks, and acupuncture. Tucker provides this type of specialized care for her patients at the UK HealthCare Headache and Pain Clinic, Kentucky’s only comprehensive headache clinic. Patients there also have unique access to participate in clinical research trials for headache pain management.

Botox injections can be used for both tension and migraine headaches to relieve muscle stress. Tucker also provides a new procedure called an occipital nerve block, where specific muscles of the occiput (back of the head), neck, and shoulders are injected with local anesthetic and steroids, relaxing them and reducing headache pain. For patients who suffer refractory headache pain, which is chronic pain that has not responded well to other treatments, implantation of an electrical nerve stimulator can be done as well.

If you would like more information about headaches or the UK HealthCare Headache and Pain Clinic, call (800) 333-8874 or visit www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu.

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