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December 29, 1989 - Image 77

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

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I HEALTH

I

• • I WISH • •

beta-blockers have proven
quite effective for many pa-
tients suffering from
migraines in their various
forms, although not all pa-
tients can take it. People with
congestive heart failure, those
receiving insulin or oral
diabetic medication and pa-
tients with lung disease can-
not use beta-blockers.
Another agent, ergotamine
tartrate, an extract of the
parasitic rye fungus, has also
proved successful in prevent-
ing headaches. Taken in the
early stages of a migraine,
this vasoconstrictor agent
also interferes with the pain-
ful dilation stage of the head-
ache. Again, however, ergota-
mine compounds cannot be
taken by patients with cer-
tain co-existing diseases.
Also, side effects such as
nausea and vomiting are not
uncommon.
Another problem with med-
ications for migraines, par-
ticularly ergotamine, is that
they tend to be habit forming
and can cause rebound head-
aches.
At the recent annual meet-
ing of the American Asso-
ciation for the Study of
Headaches, physicians af-
filiated with the Henry Ford
Hospital in Detroit suggested
there is a possible link be-
tween decreased brain levels
of magnesium and migraines.
Their study showed that mag-
nesium concentrations found
in migraine patients were
about 20 percent lower than
those observed in control
(headache-free) subjects.
Since triggering factors such
as oral contraceptives, stress,
alcohol, and soft drinks have
been known to reduce the
amount of magnesium in the
body, the magnesium-mi-
graine connection may
receive considerable em-
phasis among researchers in
the future.
Since not all patients can
take these medications, or
where they may not be total-
ly effective as a single
therapy, relaxation tech-
niques such as biofeedback
have become popular. Biofeed-
back, or operant conditioning,
is a behavioral training
technique that uses machines
and an instructor to teach the
body to perform tasks once
thought uncontrollable. A
trial-and-error approach to
learning, biofeedback has
been used to treat a number
of conditions, including
epilepsy, high blood pressure,
irregular heart rhythms, and
irritable bowel syndrome.
Biofeedback as a treatment
for headaches has proved to
be effective in children and
adults, is easy to learn, and
subjects the patient to no

unpleasant side effects.
However, a diagnosis of a
headache problem should be
made before contacting a
biofeedback therapist.
Jill Hardy, a 31-year-old
mother, tried biofeedback.
After several years of battling
mixed variety headaches,
Hardy described as "a vascu-
lar or tension headache that
appeared on the heels of the
migraine." When medicines
didn't prove effective, Hardy
turned to Dr. Barry Jay
Kirschner, a clinical psycholo-
gist in Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Kirschner, who directs
the Bethesda Headache Pro-
gram, supported recent find-
ings that stress and emotions
play a role in the development
of headaches. "Stress can be
the trigger. People actually
worry about when their next
headache will come," he said.
"This alone is enough to trig-
ger another attack."
As in Jill Hardy's case, 80
percent of migraine sufferers
who try and master biofeed-
back improved dramatically.
Other relaxation tech-
niques also offer hope. Yoga,
meditation, and even that
reliable standby, exercise, all
exert a calming influence on
the body.
Physical activity helps
about 50 percent of those who
perform it for this purpose.
Despite recent claims, there
exist no good scientific
studies that justify the use of
herbs for treating headaches.
Calcitonin, a substance de-
rived from salmon, has been
touted as offering pain relief,
but the experts disagree.
Despite the lack of pana-
ceas, headache specialists are
hopeful about the future. In
particular, they point to a new
class of drugs related to
serotonin, a chemical found
in many body tissues, in-
cluding the brain. This may
ultimately work to abort
and/or to prevent migraine at-
tacks.

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Jan Ehrman is a writer in
Baltimore.

Harper Hospital
Cancer Program

"I Can Cope," the commu-
nity program for cancer pa-
tients and their families, will
be offered for six consecutive
Thursdays 6:30-8:30 p.m.
beginning Jan. 18 at Harper
Hospital.
The program designed to in-
crease public awareness
about cancer. Strategies for
dealing with the physical and
emotional aspects of cancer
will be discussed. There is no
charge.
lb register for the program,
call Harper Hospital.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

19-F

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