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HeadWay, Issue #066 -- Your First Headache
March 23, 2009

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In this month's issue:

Your first Headache

News bits

Say what?!  Neurology

Your first Headache

If you're subscribed to this newsletter, I have to assume that either you or that person you care about is beyond the first headache - well beyond.  Many of you (I can include myself here) can't even remember our first headache, or migraine attack.

But I want to give you some general principles for first headaches.  First, because they may help you help someone else who is experiencing frightening pain and other symptoms for the first time.  Second, these same principles apply if you have a different kind of headache than you're used to, or a change in symptoms.

There are 5 things I want you to remember when you get a new headache:
  • Headaches are not "normal"
  • Don't panic
  • Talk to your doctor
  • Do your own research
  • Don't settle
Let's look at each one:

Headaches are not "normal"  Yes, almost everyone gets a headache sometime.  Yes, usually they're nothing to worry about.  However, it's often very hard to tell how serious it is.  I've seen many people who think that their headache, or those headaches they've "always had", are normal.  As a result, they put up with a far lower quality of life than they should.  They get into a cycle of pain that gets harder to treat down the road.

Don't panic.  Could your headache be the result of a brain tumor?  Possibly, but not likely.  There's no reason to panic and lose your objectivity.  Don't ignore your pain and other symptoms - but don't let them control you either.

Talk to your doctor.  The first thing to do when you get a headache for the first time, or when your symptoms change.  If possible, this should be a doctor whom you trust, who knows your medical history.

What if your doctor just tells you to take two aspirin and not worry about it?  Well, if it's a minor headache which doesn't return for the next few months, fine.  But if it doesn't go away, or starts coming back again and again, don't let your doctor brush you off.  You may need to get a second opinion, or see a headache specialist (who will often be a neurologist), or visit a pain clinic.

Do your own research.  Doctors and specialists are important to have.  They have a well-rounded knowledge, and a valuable intuition from experience and objectivity that you can't have.

But they don't know everything.  You need to be responsible for your own treatment - and that means doing your own research, and keeping up to date on the new information about your condition.

If it's headache, cluster headache, or migraine that you're dealing with, this is a great place to start.  Be sure to check out the Headache and Migraine News Blog to keep up with the latest news and tips.

Countless headache sufferers have found solutions on their own - you can too!

Don't "settle".  Don't ever settle for a poor quality of life.  Let me be clear - I do think you need to accept your life where you're at, in a certain sense.  You can't always be longing for something better; you need to find contentment and purpose in life the way it is.

But that does not mean you should stop trying to improve your life.  Too many people are settling for 3 attacks a month - because they used to have 6, and things are "so much better".  Or they're settling for medication with powerful side effects.

Of course there are times when you need a "resting period" - you can't always be trying something new.  You need time for your life to stabilize.  There are times when you need to stop and celebrate how far you've come - and be thankful.

But I don't think you should permanently stop trying for a better life.  Make a change - even if it's a small one - and take a step on the road to better health.  It's worth it!

In the months ahead we're going to talk more about these issues.  How do you find a doctor who will actually help?  How do you chose a treatment when there are literally hundreds of options?  How can you improve your quality of living when you're just trying to get through another day with your sanity?

Stay tuned for the next edition!

News bits

  • Lacosamide trial:  A recent trial of lacosamide (formerly erlosamide) for migraine failed to show impressive results.  Lacosamide, sold as Vimpat, is a new anti-seizure medication.  Read more about the lacosamide trial here.
  • Namenda migraine and chronic tension-type headache treatment:  Namenda (memantine) shows some promise for chronic tension-type headache, and especially migraine, in some small studies.  But we're still waiting for a larger study to clarify the situation.  More on Namenda Migraine Treatment.
  • PFO treatment:  Simple surgery to close a common hole in the heart for migraine started out showing great promise, but has failed to live up to expectations.  However, a new study suggests that it might be more beneficial to migraineurs who have had stroke or have subclinical brain lesions.  Read more about the latest patent foramen ovale study.
  • The Migraine Brain:  Don't miss my review of one of the newest books on migraine, The Migraine Brain.
  • Slimmer waistlines and migraine:  Don't get your hopes up that this study will change your life.
  • Trigger Points:  Moving on with our study on trigger points and various kinds of headache - Trigger Points: Identification, Myths, and Preparing to Fight them

Say what?!  Neurology

Many people get confused about what the study of neurology is.  Neurology can cover biology, but it's especially related to medicine.  It's the study and treatment of nerves and the nervous system.  As you know, your nervous system is sending messages all over your body about just about everything.  So neurology is important in many disorders, but some are more focused on neurology than others.

Headaches and migraine often fall into the neurology category, which is why your main headache specialist will likely be a neurologist.

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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