Allentown
41° F
Clear
Clear

Life Lessons: Chronic headaches

By Nancy Werteen, Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 15 2013 04:00:00 AM CDT

Ways to alleviate pain from chronic headaches

Up to 50 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches, and if you're one of them you know having a bad headache can just stop everything.

Doctors say you have to be something of a detective to find the cause.

And while finding the cause might be difficult, the fix might not be.

Living life without a headache is a gift Donna Brown of South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, didn't think she'd ever get.

For 20 years, she had awful headaches four or five times a week.

"You can't put into words how it changes you," Donna says.

For years, Donna tried a variety of medications and treatments but nothing seemed to give her any long term relief. Finally, she turned to Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network Headache Program in Allentown for help.

Headache therapist Alicia Shoup found the solution was pretty simple. It had to do with the way Donna held her head.

"She has a shorter stature. so what I found with her is her head and neck posturing was in more of an extended position, which was creating compromise in her neck," Shoup explains.

Shoup taught Donna exercises and modified her daily activities to teach Donna how to hold her neck in the right position. She says lots of people could benefit from understanding the proper alignment of their neck and spine.

"More and more we have technology in our lives, cell phones, laptops,and people
have compromised positions while they're working over long periods of time," Shoup adds.

Headaches have lots of causes but doctors say many times the cause is something in your muscular skeletal system in your neck and spine.

Dr. Ali Shah, physical medicine and rehab physician with Good Shepherd, says looking for a physical solution is a good idea.

"I think at least giving something like physical therapy --something benign-- a chance before proceeding down the line of needing more pills or injections or even surgery. I think it's a cost effective and smart way to approach it."

Donna Brown says she didn't think the answer to her headache problems could be so simple. "I was very skeptical. I'll be the first to admit it. I told Alicia and Dr. Shah this isn't going to work."

Doctors say you should have a full diagnostic workup if you're having chronic headaches to rule out any kind of disease.