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HeadWay, Issue #118 -- Don't Waste Your Time
May 21, 2014

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In this issue:

9 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Money on Treatments

Did you just start taking a Hormonal Contraceptive?

Say what?!  Hypertension

9 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Money on Treatments

Perhaps there was a day when only a handful of doctors knew anything about headache disorders beyond "take two aspirin and call me in the morning".  Perhaps there was a time when there was only a small handful of treatments for migraine or tension-type headache.

Thankfully, those days are gone.  Today (thankfully) there is much more information available, and doctors tend to be better educated (though many, many still need more training in this area).  There are many, many treatments - with good scientific evidence behind them.

But this new reality brings its own challenges.  It's very easy to waste many years (yes, years) on sub-standard treatments.  How do you avoid getting stuck in the trap?
  1. Don't waste time with a doctor you're not happy with.  I understand sometimes doctors need to tell us the hard truths, but if there's a doctor who won't take the time to listen or doesn't seem to have a good knowledge of your condition, look elsewhere as soon as possible.
  2. Don't use other people's medications/supplements.  Taking a pill that works for your friend Ashley could be a waste of time, but could also be dangerous.  Talk to your doctor first, even if you're just considering a supplement.  Your doctor may or may not be convinced the treatment will help, but they should be able to tell you if there is anything a person like you - with your medical history - should think about first.
  3. Don't waste your time on tests for no reason.  If you have no reason to suspect a particular problem, doing a test "just in case" could send you down the wrong road or even do more harm than good.  A good example is unnecessary head scans.
  4. Don't waste your time with "the latest thing".  This is a huge temptation - you've seen it on TV, all your friends are talking about it - why haven't you tried it yet?  Well, there could be 23 better treatments that you should try first.  Yes, listen to the news.  But don't keep chasing every new thing.  Do your research first - what is most likely to work for you?
  5. Don't try too many treatments at the same time.  I'm not talking about "combination" treatments - yes, doing two or three things at the same time may be just what you need.  However, if you keep changing medications and at the same time your physiotherapy and at the same time you start taking feverfew and then CoQ10 - it will be hard to tell what's actually working.  Keep track in a headache diary and don't start randomly mixing things together.
  6. Don't quit a treatment too soon.  If you quit before your body adjusts, you may never know for sure how well a treatment works.  A good rule of thumb is to try something for 3 months, while keeping a diary of your symptoms.  However, your doctor will help you decide on a more specific time frame.
  7. Don't forget to keep good records.  We've talked about a headache diary - that's crucial.  But you also need a detailed record of what treatments you've tried, and for how long.  Did you experience side effects?  How bad were they?  And exactly what kind of that medicine did you take?  A brand name may work when a generic doesn't (and vice versa).  A nasal spray may work when a pill didn't.  This type of triptan or anti-depressant may work when the other didn't.  Keep track!
  8. Don't ignore lifestyle issues.  Some of the most powerful treatments for migraine and other headache conditions include changes in diet and activity.  This doesn't mean you need to join a gym and live on rice and water.  It does mean you need to take what you eat and how active you are seriously if you want to find help early rather than late.
  9. Don't expect instant solutions.  I'm writing this article to help you to not waste time and money.  But one way to waste time is to give up early and think that you've "tried it all" or that "nothing works".  You haven't tried it all.  Yes, you may need to take a break - searching for a treatment that works can be gruelling.  But don't think because it's been several months (or years) that there's no hope.  Many many people before you have found excellent treatments - some within weeks, for others it took longer.  Don't give up!

  10. Did you just start taking a Hormonal Contraceptive?

    Did you know that your doctor should know your medical history - in detail - before prescribing contraceptives?  Did you know that many health professionals recommend more careful testing, including blood pressure testing and STD testing before a contraceptive is prescribed?

    This is especially important for women with migraine.  Both migraine and certain contraceptives may increase your risk for cardivascular disease and stroke.  Changes in hormone levels may also increase or change your pattern of migraine, and lead to conditions that often go along with migraine, such as depression?

    If you've been prescribed a contraceptive without having a complete medical history done, including a frank discussion about migraine, it's time to go back to the doctor.

    If you were properly screened, but are experiencing changes in migraine symptoms and/or depression, get back to your doctor as soon as possible or see a specialist.  Doing so can help avoid major problems down the road.

    Say what?!  Hypertension

    Hypertension is high blood pressure.  It's a particular concern in migraine because migraine may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and certain migraine medications may lead to hypertension.  Certain contraceptives also may cause high blood pressure.  Although it's usually a small problem in all these cases, everything working together may increase your risk.  It's wise to discuss any risk factors with your doctor.

    Read more about High blood pressure (hypertension).

    Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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