Headaches are one of the most prevalent neurological conditions. More than 45 million Americans suffer from some form of migraine, tension or other headache type. Even though most headache disorders are benign, they can have a very negative effect on quality of life. That’s why our headache specialists are dedicated to providing compassionate, comprehensive care to patients with this all too common problem.
Chronic Headache Screening and Diagnosis
All headache types share one symptom in common: pain. Other symptoms vary depending on the type of headache. Migraines have a throbbing pain that is often localized to one side of the head or the other. The pain can be associated with nausea, light and noise sensitivity, or stroke-like symptoms. Tension headaches are tight or vice-like and often poorly localized. Stroke-like symptoms are uncommon (by contrast to migraine). Intense pain on one side of the head or located behind one eye, with associated tearing of the eye and drooping of the eyelid, and occurring at the same time nightly for a period of days, are often hallmarks of cluster headaches (another type of chronic headache disorders). When headaches occur in association with neck pain or arise from a disorder of the cervical spine, they are sometimes called “cervicogenic.”
The Neurological Institute takes a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating chronic headaches. Most patients begin by seeing one of our neurologists who subspecialize in headache disorders, with several of our physicians specifically board certified in headache medicine and pain management. Patients first undergo a comprehensive history and physical assessment. Some may also undergo diagnostic studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Chronic Headache Treatment
Our neurology specialists treat most headache disorders by providing reassurance and with medications. Neurology specialists may consult experts in physiatry, psychology or neurosurgery to aid in the treatment of select headache disorders. For example, our physiatrists aid in the treatment of cervicogenic headaches with injections; while our psychologists aid in the treatment of tension headaches with relaxation techniques; while our neurosurgeons aid in the treatment of headache disorders due to raised intracranial pressure or mass lesions with surgery.
Our chronic headache specialists may also recommend integrative medicine programs such as acupuncture.
Along with these treatment options, patient education is also an important component in chronic headache care. Our experts work with patients, helping them to recognize triggers and modify habits that may help alleviate chronic headaches.
As part of the Department’s DodoNA Project, we have customized our electronic medical records to capture hundreds of discreet pieces of information from each chronic headache office visit. For patients with migraine headaches, we collect blood samples with informed consent to extract and store DNA. We aim to identify genetic and non-genetic factors that predict the severity, progression and outcomes of migraine in each patient and that guide treatment (personalized medicine).
For More Information
Please call 877.570.7020 for more information on chronic or cervicogenic headaches to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.
In order to serve all of our patients’ neurology needs, our team of general neurologists at the NorthShore Neurological Institute provides access for both urgent and non-urgent outpatient appointments, as well as inpatient consultation services.