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Take the worry out of those headaches

By Staff | Mar 13, 2012

Dr. Stuart Olinsky, a neurologist from Susquehanna Health, discusses the treatment and management of migraine headaches at the Life Center located in the Lycoming Mall, Muncy Township.

MUNCY – No one seems to escape life without suffering from a headache. However, others suffer more severely, mainly from migraine and cervicogenic headaches as was presented last week at the Life Center by Dr. Stuart Olinsky, a neurologist with Susquehanna Health, and David Johnson, a licensed physical therapist and Clinical Coordinator for Susquehanna Health.

No doubt, headaches are a common cause of lost productivity according to Dr. Olinsky. There are lots of triggers for headaches, especially migraines which is a form of a primary headache. There are two common types of migraines, with or without auras, he explained. A migraine with aura is referred to as classic migraine and without aura as common migraine. Warnings of its onset will vary and there are some basic features.

Visual headaches can start at one side and expand causing flashing lights, zigzagging lines. “They start in the right hemisphere,” said Dr. Olinsky. Some are accompanied by nausea while others may lose some vision. “Migraines can go from mild to not so mild, to severe,” he added, “And someone can have a migraine and not be sick.” Some suffer two a month while others have two a day. There are cases of postdrome headaches, migraine hangovers, suffering from three or four a month. “This is a lot of time disabling.”

Ninety nine percent of headaches are on the right. Migraines usually don’t switch sides. Most are bothered by lights, noise, and commonly can’t think very well before and afterwards. Dr. Olinsky added, “Most people try to get by.”

For causes Dr. Olinsky recommends taking a good look at family history. Another is a change in sleeping patterns. For example, sleeping in late one morning during the week can cause a shift, also weather patterns. “There are hundreds of different triggers. I learn new ones every day from people,” he said. Migraines are a 60/35 split when it comes to gender, more common in women.

For treatment he said he avoids MRI’s and uses EG’s to check for seizures. There are a number of treatment options, depending on how often, how long and how disabled the case. Many don’t take anything while others need something over the counter, and more severe cases require prescribed medications such as triptans. Migranal is a new acute treatment option now for migraines and is used like a nasal spray. “It is an excellent way to break the prolonging cycle of the headache,” explained the neurologist.

Headaches that are not as severe get labeled as something else. Tension headaches, headaches caused by poor posture, neck strain, neck sprains and faulty movement patterns, are all results from daily life. These are cervical headaches as described by David Johnson, a physical therapist. “They are characterized by chronic hemi-cranial pain that is referred to the head from either boney structures or soft tissues of the neck.”

He further explains that sensory nerves interact in the spinal cord causing pain from any of the three natural spinal curves: the cervical lordosis, the thoracic kypohosis, and the lumbar lordosis. A change in these areas could cause acute or chronic pain, such as headaches. A sedentary lifestyle, past injuries, altered mechanics, over use of extremities, and delayed healing all can cause pain that starts in the neck that ultimately leads to a headache.

“Stress is also a trigger that irritates an underlying dysfunction,” said Johnson. Posture is important. He recommends to avoid imbalance. “Always work in a neutral position, or return to neutral posture.” Be aware of your posture which could lead to poor muscular movement, dislocations and out of joint alignment. Neck strains, neck sprains, and faulty movement will trigger a headache. “Control the causes and you may have less frequent or no episodes,” Johnson said. Usually with physical therapy and a treatment plan, the problem can be corrected. Regular exercise also helps, and correcting the underlying postural causes.

This program, sponsored by Susquehanna Health and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania was offered as a free community event open to women and men of all ages according to Jennifer Deemer from Blue Cross. “We will be hosting a number of other seminars and events throughout 2012 as part of the Spirit of Women Program,” Deemer said.