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Healthy Living

By Sheryl Kraft

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Headaches. They make me want to scream.

I hate to talk about headaches, because I suffer from them - and usually try to take the focus off of the unpleasant pain, nausea, noise and light sensitivity by denying that I even have one. (Sometimes it works for me. In fact, exercise seems to temporarily take my mind off the pain. While I'm at the gym, the pain usually disappears).

But I've yet to find something that works to cure my headaches. I've tried it all -  various medications, laying in a dark room, cold packs, hot packs; even pressing my fingers so hard into my hand – a technique known as acupressure – that my hand ends up aching even more than my head. And I'm sure I’m not alone in my quest for headache relief: every 10 seconds, someone in the U.S. takes a trip to the ER with a headache or a migraine. In fact, headaches tend to be much more partial to women, too – over 27 million of us lucky ones.

And the fact that my favorite headache doc picked up and moved his office to parts unknown has left me without any professional I truly trust to help. Although, today when I read through Ivanhoe.com’s post about headaches I got to the very end, the part that says "for more information, contactXXX" and there he was – at the Cleveland Clinic. Perhaps he'll be hearing from me – and you, too? (If you have any questions for Dr. Stuart Tepper, please send them to me and I'll be happy to forward them on to him).

I've just about given up on medication, and have almost – but not quite -  come to peace with the fact that I have to just wait it out, sometimes for as long as 2 or 3 days. But lots of people don’t do this. In their desperation to get rid of the pain or on the advice of their docs, they often mix their prescription drugs with over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil. What follows is not what they intended – their headaches return after just a few hours. Too many medications taken at one time backfires. Instead of curing the pain, it can cause it, making the headache much, much worse.

Although cutting off all medications – many times the treatment for this problem – won't fully cure patients of their acute migraines, it can lessen their severity and frequency. If this is you, check with your doctor to see if what you are taking is absolutely necessary.

This Matters> Here’s a head's up to those of you who might be unsure of when a headache warrants a call to your doc:

  • ·       You usually have two or more headaches a week
  • ·       You take a pain reliever for your headaches every day or almost every day
  • ·       You need more than the recommended dose of over-the-counter pain remedies to relieve your headaches
  • ·       Your headache pattern changes
  • ·       Your headaches are getting worse


If your headache is worse than all that, here’s when you should hightail it to the ER or doctor's office. If your headache:

  • ·       Is sudden and severe
  • ·       Is combined with a fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizure, double vision, weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking
  • ·       Follows a head injury
  • ·       Gets worse despite rest and pain medication


Want to learn more?

Info from the Migraine Research Foundation http://www.migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine.html

To do a migraine self-assessment, click here http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/migraine-headache/MI00007

Read what the folks at healthywomen.org have to say http://healthywomen.org/condition/migraine

Headache-busting helpers http://healthywomen.org/content/article/headache-help-without-drugstore

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