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Have a Headache? Don't Pop a Pill; Play the Long Game
Taking pain relief at the first feelings of a headache may mask an underlying condition. Use long-term treatments designed for migraines, says the director of Yale's Headache and Facial Pain Center.
Ingesting a nightly Advil or Tylenol is protocol for many. The general body aches, joint inflammation, and, especially, headaches that tag along on a stressful workday seem mitigated with a few hundred milligrams of pain relief. Of course, this only masks what could be a serious underlying condition.
We all have triggers for those sharp (or for some, dull) pains that attack the inside of our skull. Within moments a bottle is popped, two pills washed down in one gulp. The mistake we may be making, however, is confusing the trigger for the cause. The headache would most likely still have occurred, says Christopher Gottschalk. The trigger merely exacerbates the pain while giving your mind a supposed ‘reason’ to latch onto.
Most of the things that people have thought of as triggers—stress, weather fronts, diet—when we have studied them, we’ve come up empty-handed every time. It’s not that they cause headaches, but that when you’re getting a headache, weather changes and perfumes feel worse.
As director of Yale Medicine’s Headache and Facial Pain Center, Gottschalk has developed another approach: treat every headache as a migraine. This, he says, will offer more of an opportunity at long-term success in treating and even potentially eliminating the problem.
This will take some work from a consumer standpoint, so accustomed we are to popping pills. Add to this that the cognitive distance between the freely perused aisles and the pharmacist’s counter is steep. When we can walk into our local pharmacy and pay a few dollars for a hundred pills we tend to think of those drugs as safe and practically benign.
One 2001 study shows that over 30 billion over-the-counter doses of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were purchased in the United States alone that year. Yet the safety of NSAIDs is of ongoing concern. One report states that roughly 110,000 people are injured or die due to acetaminophen (an analgesic in Tylenol, for one) each year. Given that there were 27 billion doses of that specific substance sold in 2009, that equals one complication in every quarter-million doses—not an epidemic, though nothing to gloss over either.
Since migraines are a chronic condition, Gottschalk is taking the long view on headaches. He recommends preventive options such as anti-seizure medications, low doses of tricyclic antidepressants, or higher doses of beta blockers. He’s also a fan of nose sprays or injections given the tendency of certain pharmaceuticals to disrupt the digestive process. A common complaint of migraines is nausea, so feeding that intestinal fire means replacing one problem with another.
Looking into the future, Gottschalk is heading into research that helps the immune system address a protein triggered by migraines. The hopes are that an antibody infusion targeting this protein would stop common headaches before they start.
Migraines have been shown to be progressively crippling with potential cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and long-term neurologic effects. Experiencing even intermittent headaches, according to Gottschalk, could be the result of the same process that causes migraines.
Given the possible detrimental effects of pharmaceuticals, other avenues of treatment are in need of further study. One pilot study of 19 sufferers of chronic migraines found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation helped reduce headache duration and disability effects. Personally, I’ve found great success with myofascial release techniques on my upper back and pectorals, as well as neck region, in alleviating occasional headaches.
One thing is clear: the causes of headaches are numerous, so defaulting to a nightly (or even occasional) pill to soothe the symptoms might temporarily relieve discomfort but prohibit you from finding solutions. Gottschalk’s discovery is a step in the right direction.
Derek's next book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health, will be published on 7/4/17 by Carrel/Skyhorse Publishing. He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.
- Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
- Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
- One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.