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December 29, 1989 - Image 76

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-29

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Photo By Craig Terkowitz

On The Cutting Edge
Of Headache Research


Special to the Jewish News


t may have been more
than half a century ago,
but Leah Rochkind easi-
ly recalls the devastating
pain and discomfort, the
nausea and vomiting, and the
other symptoms of the
headaches that marred her
early years. Rochkind, of
Silver Spring, Maryland,
speaks of her early bouts with
migraine headaches as if they
had struck yesterday. "I was
about 11 when they started.
Believe me, I was so sick
when they hit, all I could do
was lie in a silent, dark
Over the years, stretching
into mid-life, Rochkind's
migraines abated somewhat.
Indeed, time used to be the
only remedy for people suffer-
ing from migraine as well as


many other headaches.
Medical experts then had lit-
tle to offer aside from the
traditional five grams of
aspirin and other moderate
pain-reducers. Now, however,
experts have a better under-
standing of the mysteries
surrounding headaches, a
malady that chronically af-
fects 45 million men, women
and children.
Chronic headaches take
their toll on an individual's
finances, education, employ-
ment and social interactions.
Well over eight million doctor
visits are made each year in
the desperate pursuit of
headache relief. Employees
miss 150 million workdays,
and children miss more than
100 million days of school
each year from the disorder,
according to the National In-
stitute of Neurological and
Communicative Disorders
and Stroke (NINCDS), part of


There are no
panaceas, but
experts say 90
percent of sufferers
can be helped.

the National Institutes of
Health. But according to
NINCDS, at least 90 percent
of all chronic headache suf-
ferers can be helped by
today's knowledge and tech-
For example, physicians
now know that stress, fatigue,
weather changes, certain
foods, chocolates, missing a
meal, perfumes, flickering
lights, or simply oversleeping
can bring on a migraine
headache. Even missing the
morning cup of coffee may
provoke symptoms in suscep-
tible individuals.
At the same time, modern
medicine has made signifi-
cant advances in headache
therapies. While aspirin,
acetaminophen, or even a
shot of caffeine may alleviate
the infrequent muscle con-
traction headache, usually
stronger drugs are needed to
alleviate symptoms of chronic

tension, migraine and cluster
headaches. The latter pre-
dominantly affect males, can
be extremely debilitating,
and are often the most dif-
ficult to treat. Non-steroidal
antiinflammatory agents
(NSAIDs) can help some pa-
tients, especially women
whose migraines are related
to the menstrual cycle.
Experts say the greatest ad-
vance has been with the so-
called beta-blocker drugs
such as inderal (propanolol),
prescribed most often for
treating hypertension. Used
primarily to prevent head-
aches, inderal is the only
beta-blocking agent approved
by the Food and Drug Admin-
istration for headaches al-
though in trials, other related
compounds show similar ef-
Beta-blockers act directly
on the brain's blood vessels by
inhibiting their dilation. The

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