Simple Lifestyle Changes May Ease Chronic Headache
July 17, 2000 -- When is a headache more than just a headache? If you have
had tension or migraine headaches at least 15 days a month for six months or
more, you may suffer from a condition known as chronic daily headache
Although CDH affects only about 2% of the population, it can seriously
disrupt the lives of those who live with it. Now, research has uncovered some
new clues about what may cause CDH and has shown that some simple techniques
can ease its symptoms, according to researchers attending a meeting of the
American Headache Society in Quebec.
Prior headaches, a family history of headaches, head injuries, and
fibromyalgia -- a painful and sometimes debilitating disorder involving
muscles, ligaments, and tendons -- are all associated with CDH, but their exact
roles are not yet clear.
To explore the role injury plays, researchers compared more than 200 CDH
patients, with and without a history of brain injury. "Both groups were
similar in age, sex, and symptoms, but the data suggest that head injury can
produce CDH, even when there are no other risk factors," says study author
James Couch, MD, professor and chairman of neurology at the University of
Similarly, Brazilian researchers compared more than 100 CDH patients, some
of whom had fibromyalgia and some who did not. Both groups were mostly female,
but the patients who also had fibromyalgia tended to be older than the others
and had more incapacitating headaches and insomnia, the researchers say.
In some cases, one way to prevent these headaches, believe it or not, is to
stop taking pain medication -- or at least, stop taking it incorrectly.
"If you're taking prescription or over-the-counter analgesics more than
twice a week, you may be causing your daily headaches," says Stephen
Silberstein, MD, director of the Jefferson Headache Clinic and professor of
neurology at Jefferson Medical College, both in Philadelphia.
These so-called drug rebound headaches result from overuse of the headache
medication: The headache returns as each dose of the medicine wears off,
prompting the patient to take more and leading to a cycle of headaches and drug
There are some other simple techniques that may stop the pain, Silberstein
tells WebMD. "Eating regular meals, getting plenty of exercise, and
learning how to manage stress are some other keys to prevention," he says.
And "by all means, limit your intake of MSG, caffeine, and alcohol." He
also notes that many patients have found relief after mastering muscle
relaxation through biofeedback.
A study led by Ninan Matthew, MD, a clinical professor of neurology at the
University of Texas, found that four months of treatment involving the types of
methods suggested by Silberstein could significantly decrease the symptoms of