Summer is Time for Concussions????

With kids, young and old, all out of school there is plenty of time and good weather for sports, recreation, and travel.  We need to be cautious with our fun, just a little, to avoid potentially long term problems.  That is truly the issue, who wants to think about head injuries as your heading to the pool or out for a game of softball?  Since the 1970’s when I grew up, though, times have changed.  Kids now wear helmets when they ride bikes, and sit in carseats til they’re 10 or so?  I remember, but won’t go in to detail, riding on what was essentially the hood of my dad’s car while he drove 30 mph down our street.  Boy, it was fun.  We blasted Fleetwood Mac, the wind racing through our hair… those times are over, though.  Car seats, seat belts, all this safety.  But we, as a society, decided to make these changes because we knew the tragedy of losing a young healthy vital person for no reason.  Now, all kids wear helmets when riding bikes, and they are getting more and more common on the ski slopes too.  Why?  Because even though we all want to feel the wind in our hair, we know better.  We don’t want the tragedy to be our own loved ones, or our own selves.  When this all started, everyone was upset.  But we got used to it as a society, and now we all do it.  I, for one, rebelled against seatbelts for a few years.  Now, I feel naked without one.

So, back to summertime fun and concussions.  We need to think about it, talk about it, know about it.  Fatal brain injuries are tragic, and thankfully uncommon.  Concussions are surprisingly common, and surprisingly dismissed.  Yet, concussion can be downright dangerous, and can lead to long term consequences for our brains.  We neurologists have some idea about the consequences in adults, and still don’t understand many of the consequences in children.  In adults, concussions can lead to headaches, memory loss, mood changes, depression, dizziness, balance problems, impaired concentration, and more.

Think about safety and your brain.  Protect it.  You might need it one day.  (or tomorrow.)  If you get a concussion, stop doing what you’re doing, rest, and contact your doctor.

Memorial Day Weekend’s Coming – Tip #4

  If you’re heading out to a barbecue this Memorial Day Weekend, skip the hot dogs if your migraines are sensitive to nitrates.  Other cured meats and sausages, hard cheeses, heavily spiced foods, avocados and alcohol may all trigger migraines too. 

Instead, opt for burgers or chicken on the grill not too heavily spiced and without seasoning salt.  Grilled veggies are always a good choice too.  Drink plenty of water, and if you want to have a drink, opt for a vodka or gin drink that’s not too sugary.   And please, have a designated driver.

Do Children Cause Headaches?

Children can cause headaches in so many ways, that so many parents can attest to.  The good news is, they grow up.  The bad news is, the bigger they get, the bigger the headaches.  That’s what my mom would say, anyway.  Headaches can be aggravated by pregnancy and childbirth, as well as changes throughout parenthood.

Lots of changes in headaches can occur during pregnancy.  Hormonal fluctuations during the pregnancy can tend to worsen headaches in the earlier stages of pregnancy, and tend to protect against headaches during mid and later stages of pregnancy.  Childbirth itself is a whirlwind of hormones, stress, sleep disruption and metabolic changes in the body that certainly can bring on a migraine, but often the migraine will wait a few weeks to rear it’s very ugly head.  Watch out, though, it could be a bad one!

 Newborns and infants disrupt sleep patterns, and if it’s a first, the stress of being a new parent doubles the danger.  During this time, many women breastfeed their babies and can’t take medications for headaches to worsen the problem.  There are methods that can help, though.  You will have to put yourself first, occasionally, taking time to meditate or relax, do some exercises to help ward off those headaches.

As kids grow up, the headaches they induce mostly stem from stress, but there can be some other situations that are less obvious.  Having a sick child not only stresses a parent, but often disrupts sleep, and can change many lifestyle habits that contribute to headaches such as dietary changes or changes in exercise habits.  Holidays  may bring lots of obvious stressors, but the family vacation?  To some, a smooth sail.  To many, not so much.  Take a vacation on your own, or with your adult partner, for a couple of days when you get back! 

How ’bout those college applications?  Exciting?  Yup.  Watching your child’s hopes and dreams expand and materialize?  Yup.  Pressure?  Yup.  You may think the pressure is all on the kid, but in my experience, the parent is feeling it, sometimes even more.  Does your child’s success reflect on you as a parent?  Well, if you’re feelin’ that a little too much, the headaches are likely to be a sign to back off and take time to reflect on the stuff that really matters. 

So, kids can cause headaches, for sure.  But always remember the joy and hope they bring to our lives.  There has to be some sacrifice, doesn’t there?

Cracking Your Neck

Damage to blood vessels in the neck and head, can cause headaches. The type of damage I’m talking about is arterial dissection. This can happen after trauma, but sometimes the trauma is very innocuous, or there is no trauma at all. Also, sometimes this type of problem is associated with stroke like symptoms, but sometimes it’s just a headache.

Trauma that can lead to dissection includes whiplash type injuries, anything with prolonged hyperextension of the neck, and even cracking your own neck. So be careful out there… protect your head and neck.

Botox Treats Headaches and Migraines?

Botulinum toxin injections have been studied for treating headaches for many years.  Results of some of the big studies were mixed, but many headache specialists still use it, and here’s why… it works.  At least in some patients.  For years, we have known that while many patients may not respond to botulinum toxin injections, some do, and sometimes in a dramatic way with near complete resolution of headaches.

A recent study published in the February issue of Archives of Dermatology by Kim, et al., attempted to identify a subtype of migraine that might respond more robustly to this treatment.  The study was small, but certain types of headache seemed to respond better than others.  This type of study needs to be reapeated with larger numbers of patients to see if this is a real phenomenon.  This may help explain, though, the experience of neurologists using botulinum toxin for migraine and other headaches… that some people respond wonderfully, and others get no benefit.  Maybe we were on to something.  In the future, we may be able to use the individual characteristics of a person’s headaches to choose the best treatment options more reliably.

There may be several different characteristics of headaches that may make you a good candidate for the treatment, so you need to speak to your doctor about it.

An Introduction

This is my first blog, I’m a newbie, so please be patient.  You may eventually figure out that I am passionate about what I do.  And one of the things I am most passionate about is educating people about their neurological conditions, and how to take care of themselves to prevent these conditions, or to help have better outcomes with a particular condition. 

I am subspecialty trained in headache medicine (and board certified in the specialty as well), so this is my greatest passion perhaps.  But in my experience that has formed my clinical approach, I have found that so many aspects of life affect not only headaches and migraines, but other neurological conditions, and vice versa. 

The brain is a very complex, elegant and powerful organ that fascinates me to no end.  In this blog, I will write about this wonderful organ, and hope to provide insight into current news, underlying disease states (or natural states), and give advice about both neurological conditions and other life issues that may affect neurological conditions. 

I hope you, the reader, can find some helpful points as I write and discuss these topics.