DR. KESTNER: New hope for headache pain

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In spite of hundreds of drugs on the market aimed at relieving headache pain, there are millions of people that continue to experience chronic headaches.

For many Americans, the drugs are not effective in reducing the number or severity of headaches.

Often drugs just mask symptoms rather than resolving the issue.

For many patients in this situation, a new source of hope may come in the form of an old traditional method of treatment.  

A very broad based study recently conducted at Duke University reviewed more than 30 studies involving more than 4,000 patients with headaches including migraines, tension headaches, sinus pain and other types of headache.

Here is a quote from the DukeHealth.org website:

“We combed through the literature and conducted the most comprehensive review of available data done to date using only the most rigorously-executed trials,” said Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, MD, a Duke anesthesiologist who led the analysis.

“Acupuncture is becoming a favorable option for a variety of purposes ranging from enhancing fertility to decreasing post-operative pain because people experience significantly fewer side effects and it can be less expensive than other options,” Gan said. “This analysis reinforces that acupuncture also is a successful source of relief from chronic headaches.”

According to the Duke source, 62 percent of patients responded favorably to acupuncture versus only 45 percent for medication.  The patients receiving acupuncture also reported having other benefits such as improved feelings of well being, better sleep and more energy.

I have found that results in our clinic even exceed those quoted in the Duke Study.  It is unusual, in fact, if a patient with headaches does not respond favorably to treatment in our clinic.

Here’s a recent example:

A mother brought her teenage son to see me earlier this year. He told me that he had headaches that were severe enough that he often was unable to even carry on with normal activities. I asked how long he had experienced headaches. “Since second grade,” he replied.  

He then told me that in the past few months the headaches had been getting worse and occurring three or four days per week.

I asked him and his mother what doctors they had previously consulted.  They had made several visits to various specialists and had many tests and imaging studies performed. Because no previous doctor had found a solution, the last doctor he had seen had told him that he would just have to live with the headaches and maybe he “would grow out of them.”

After so many years of failed responses to ordinary medical care, they decided to consider unconventional treatment. They consulted with me to learn whether acupuncture treatment might be an option.  

He was not hopeful at first. He had tried so many treatments without results that he was expecting another ineffective try. Realizing that this treatment involved being stuck with needles on a weekly basis, he was even more hesitant.

Once he experienced the first treatment, however, and discovered the needles didn’t hurt, he grew a little more positive. After he realized a week later that he had not had as many headaches, he began to look forward to the visits.

Last week, he sat in my office and told me that he had only had one mild headache during the past month. I asked if he had experienced any minor headaches. He told me that he had not had any pain at all except for that single headache.

Every patient varies in their response to acupuncture. But if the patient is an appropriate candidate and proper treatment is given, the response is usually positive.

This patient, like millions of others, had been told incorrectly that there is no hope other than drugs that mask their symptoms. They have been told that no solution exists.  

I sometimes consult with patients that I decline to accept for treatment because I do not think I have an effective solution for them.

I prefer to tell them that I do not have an answer for them, rather than declaring that there is no answer.

I always suggest that they keep searching, rather than give up.

Resolve to stay happy and stay healthy for the rest of the year!
Read more from:
Health, Health Care, Mark Kestner, Voices
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