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Is Your Doctor in Touch With Current Research?

Being an informed patient sometimes means feeling like you know more than your doctor does. Sometimes this isn’t just a feeling, but a fact.

In Why Doesn’t My Doctor Know This?, Dr. Kent Holtorf explains that “. . . [T]he overwhelming majority (all but a few percent) of physicians (endocrinologists, internists, family practitioners, rheumatologists, etc.) do not read medical journals. When asked, most doctors will claim that they routinely read medical journals, but this has been shown not to be the case.”

I don’t want to believe this statement, but with schedules crammed tight and overwhelming paperwork, it’s no surprise that some docs can’t keep up on all the research in their fields.

So the patient must step in. If you read about new study findings, look into more yourself. Many of the news articles will parrot each other, but dig around for the study abstract for more details. If the study is only of people with migraine with aura, and you don’t have auras, there’s no indication that you will benefit from the treatment in the article.

Don’t just bring in an article and ask, “What can you tell me about this?” Take concrete questions to your doctor. Does this treatment apply to you? Have other studies supported its findings? If your doc can’t answer your questions right away, ask that he or she get back to you.

If your doctor doesn’t act on the information, don’t assume that he or she is lazy or unwilling to work with you. One study does not prove a treatment is effective, future studies frequently contradict previously published research, or the approach may not be right for you.

However, if you feel like you are frequently stonewalled, being disrespected or not adequately treated, there’s always the option of shopping for another doctor.

[via We Are Advocates]

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National Headache Foundation Answers Frequently Asked Questions

In one comprehensive page, the National Headache Foundation responds to common questions about migraine as well as tension-type, cluster, sinus, rebound headaches. The short answers include links to comprehensive information. Questions include:

  • Does weather affect migraines?
  • What are the triptans?
  • What alternative therapies are used to treat migraine?
  • What is biofeedback?
  • Are headaches hereditary?
  • What type of doctor should I see to diagnose and treat my headache?

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Spinal Tap (aka Lumbar Puncture) to Diagnose Headache Disorders

A common headache diagnostic tool, the thought of a lumbar puncture (often called a spinal tap) may terrify you. The length of the needle used is surprising, but the procedure is not that bad. At least, it wasn’t for me and I was needle-shy at the time. Many people have shared similar experiences with me.

Why Lumbar Punctures Are Used
Lumbar punctures are used to check for an underlying condition, like meningitis, hydrocephalus or subarachnoid hemorrhage. They can’t diagnose migraine or tension-type headache, but are used to rule out other possibilities.

What the Procedure is Like
Before the needle is put in, you are given local anesthetic. The anesthetic will sting or burn initially, but you’ll be grateful for it during the next step. After the anesthetic takes effect, the needle to draw the fluid will be inserted. You’ll feel a hard pressure in your back when the needle goes in and might have a few seconds of pain as it goes through the tissue. You may feel pressure while the fluid is being drawn.

The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes, but the part where the needle is in your back only takes a few minutes.

The Dreaded Lumbar Puncture Headache
I’d be lying if I said that spinal headaches following a lumbar puncture are uncommon. However, they are usually gone within 48 hours after the procedure. They are easily treated with pain relievers, lying flat, and drinking a little caffeine and lots of water and are usually gone within 48 hours.

If the headache lasts longer than 48 hours, most doctors will recommend a blood patch. For this, blood is drawn from your arm and then injected in the lumbar region. The blood then forms a clot to seal the puncture hole.

Nearly everyone has relief after a blood patch. Because I’m so special, I became a baseball fan during the three weeks following my lumbar puncture. The odds that you’ll have the same trouble are so low that I’ll spare you the details.

Tips For Your Lumbar Puncture

  • Schedule the procedure for a Friday so you can rest over the weekend.
    If you can send the kids to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, great!
  • If you can stomach it, ask the doctor to explain each step as you go along. Knowing what to expect relieves some of the fear.
  • Have someone drive you to your appointment so you don’t have to drive home. Even if you’re not in pain, you may feel woozy or “off” from nervousness.

Learn More About Lumbar Punctures

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Food Triggers for Migraines and Headaches

Food_trigger The Daily Headache on Food Triggers

Bloggers on Food Triggers for Headache

Resources

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American Council for Headache Education’s New Website

Wondering how migraine and tension-type headache differ? Or what the common migraine treatments are? The American Council for Headache Education (aka ACHE) has a new website that will answer these questions and more.

Particularly good stuff:

All headache organization and educational sites have similar information. How it’s presented is the difference. ACHE’s articles are brief, but don’t skimp on details. The vast amount of information is narrowed to key topics, so you’re not overwhelmed. Articles aren’t bogged down with confusing jargon and are well-written.

I was shocked that ACHE links to Wikipedia’s migraine page. Wikipedia is a wonderful pop culture and travel reference, but am I’m wary of it for serious topics. The migraine page used to be full of errors and misleading information. At 1:03 pm PST on July 22, the page is quite good. Just know it is ever-changing and that being wrong doesn’t preclude someone from editing it.

ACHE’s site is primarily focused on migraine, which is the case
with a lot of headache sites (including mine). Perhaps it’s because
migraine is so prevalent and underdiagnosed. The articles are helpful even if you aren’t a migraineur. You might find — like I did — that your headaches that aren’t migraines actually are.