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December 28, 1990 - Image 66

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-28

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Headache Help

A new organization, appropriately called ACHE, serves as a link

between physicians and sufferers.


Special to The Jewish. News


ncient Romans and
Greeks suffered them.
Now, so do more than
50 million Americans. For-
tunately, headache remedies
have improved greatly since
the days where splitting
skulls to release evil spirits
was the cure. Today, research-
ers are concentrating on
biological rather than psycho-
logical causes of headaches.
"They're no longer a dis-
ease of the stressed or the
neurotic," says Dr. William G.
Speed, an associate professor
of medicine at Johns Hopkins
School of Medicine and di-
rector of Speed Headache
Associates of Baltimore.
"Headaches are real, and
they hurt."
To help spread this mes-
sage, Dr. Speed has become an
adviser to the American
Council for Headache Educa-
tion (ACHE), a new organiza-
tion dedicated to increasing
public awareness of the
disease and its treatment by
providing a link between phy-
sicians and headache suffer-
ACHE, which officially
kicks off next month, is an
arm of the American Asso-
ciation for the Study of
Headache, a professional
association of physicians and
health care workers. It aims
to reach the public through
the media and newsletters
and by hosting free public
forums across the country.
An estimated 50 to 70 mil-
lion Americans have frequent
headaches and 70 percent of
all households have at least
one person who is headache-
prone, according to Gregg
Talley, executive director of
ACHE provides other statis-
tics related to headaches in
the United States. There are
over 300 causes of headache,
including genetic factors, the
presence of another disease,
environmental influence, diet
and stress. Headaches cost
some $50 billion per year in
worker absenteeism and
health care. Americans take
some 20 million tons of aspir-
in each year, of which 75
percent is used to treat head-


Emotional stress can often
trigger head pain, but it's
usually not the cause of
chronic daily headaches, ac-
cording to Dr. Speed. "Head-
aches are, in fact, a genetic,
inherited disturbance in the
brain's chemistry. It's like a
mechanism that's just wait-
ing there, ready to be fired
off," he explains.
Dr. Speed advises his pa-
tients to avoid certain foods
and to keep an accurate ac-
count of the frequency, dura-
tion and intensity of their
headaches on special charts.
They are also asked to record
regular medications as well
as pills taken at the onset of
Certain substances found in
food and drinks act directly
on blood vessels, causing
them to dilate, Dr. Speed says.
This is what produces
migraine attacks.
Migraine sufferers should
avoid chemicals such as tyra-
mine (found in aged cheese


and meats), phenylethyla-
mine (in chocolate), nitrates
(in hot dogs and lunch meat)
and monosodium glutamate
(in Chinese food and alcohol,
especially red wine).
An alternative to medica-
tion is biofeedback, a tech-
nique that trains migraine
patients to control their mus-

An estimated 50 to
70 million
Americans suffer
from frequent

cle tension and blood flow.
Patients attached to a ther-
mistor, a device which meas-
ures skin temperature, can
raise their body temperature,
thus constricting the brain's
otherwise dilated blood
"Migraines are sort of like
diabetes," Dr. Speed says.

"There's no absolute cure for
either, but we can teach pa-
tients how to control their
condition and keep it out of
the driver's seat."
Nearly 70 percent of the
approximately 20 million wo-
men who suffer from mi-
graines have attacks prior to,
or during, menstruation, ac-
cording to Dr. Joel Saper,
president of the American
Association for the Study of
Headache and a board mem-
ber of ACHE. Dr. Saper,
author of Help for Headaches,
directs the Michigan
Headache and Neurological
Institute in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"The predisposition for mi-
graine is aggravated by the
higher levels of estrogen in
women," says Dr. Saper.
Dr. Edward Lichten, direc-
tor of the Premenstrual
Treatment Center and
Headache Institute for
Women in Southfield, has
reported on migraine
headaches in women during

menstruation at national
symposiums. "Women of
reproductive age experience
more than three times as
many migraine headaches as
men of similar ages," said Dr.
Lichten in a national report.
Dr. Lichten is involved in
ongoing studies at Sinai
Hospital on the treatment of
migraine headaches for
Dr. Saper's Institute
receives national accredita-
tion from the Commission of
Accreditation of Rehabilita-
tion Facilities, and treats
about 1,700 people each year.
This accreditation establishes
standards of care for
Dr. Saper became interested
in head pain disorders while
serving as an assistant pro-
fessor of neurology at the
University of Michigan
School of Medicine. "I was
shocked by how little was ac-
tually known about the
causes of headaches," Dr.

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