Hope. Relief. Freedom. These are not words commonly heard when the topic of discussion is headaches or migraines. The information below will help you realize that they can be very appropriate words to apply to your headache or migraine.
Headaches and migraines are a common source of misery and significant life interruption, particularly when they become chronic. It has been estimated that 13% of the US population suffers from headaches and migraines (migraines.com). A headache often leaves people incapacitated for days or hours, and many people have multiple headaches like this per week.
Headaches come from a variety of sources including concussions, traumatic brain injuries, stress, illness, high blood pressure, etc., but many times those who suffer are unable to identify a precise cause. This can be very frustrating and sometimes leads others to question whether the headaches are real or, pardon the pun, all in the sufferer's head. A lack of a clear cut cause or precipitating event also results in doctors being unable to treat the headache or migraine effectively.
The research and clinical work we've done at Peak Neuropsychology indicates that the exact cause of headaches or migraines is less important than the outcome of whatever precipitating event occurred. In other words, we know that what happens in the brain after a wide range of precipitating events, injuries, or illnesses is what leads to headaches. This knowledge allows us to treat them effectively.
This is what's happening in your brain when you have a headache or migraine. First, a part of the International Association for the Study of Pain's definition of pain is, "an unpleasant sensory and emotional sensation associated with actual or potential tissue damage," which means there does not have to be actual tissue damage for you to experience pain. It is important to remember, though, that a lack of tissue damage does not mean there is not a physiological reason and cause of your pain, including headache pain.
The body's pain sensors are called nociceptors, which serve to alert you to difficulty or danger in some bodily organ, system, or functional area. The primary difficulty or danger in your head that results in pain (migraine or otherwise) is a chemical disruption that is the end result of injuries or illnesses and activates the nociceptors. These injuries and/or illnesses can be so minor you do not even realize they have occurred, or, as is more often the case, the injury or illness is so significant that you are well aware of it, and you know it has resulted in your headache or migraine even if you don't know the exact process causing it. The chemical disruption is a physiological problem that includes activation of the nociceptors, resulting in pain, and not something you made up or the result of some psychological problem or weakness. There is often a change in thought patterns that RESULTS FROM this physiological, chemical process, which needs to be addressed as part of treatment, but this is NOT A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROGRAM CAUSING THE HEADACHE OR MIGRAINE.
We at Peak Neuropsychology can effectively address the chemical disruption and eliminate the headache and/or migraine pain, as well as change and eliminate the altered thought patterns coming from the chemical disruption. This is Hope, Relief, and Freedom for you if you've struggled with headaches and migraines.