If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know it’s a lot more than a headache.
And you want a doctor who understands what you are experiencing.
Dr. Andrew Charles understands. He gets them too.
What makes that noteworthy is that Dr. Charles is a professor of Neurology and Director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
A headache expert that gets headaches. Probably worth listening to him.
“It’s a misconception that a migraine is just a bad headache,” Dr. Charles recently told a community forum on pain in Pasadena. “Nausea and fatigue and other side effects accompany them.”
Charles was a featured panelist at the “Invisible Suffering” forum, sponsored by KPCC Southern California Public Radio, that drew about 100 chronic pain sufferers, their family members, and health care providers. The entire forum can be heard here.
It is estimated that over 45 million people suffer from migraines and, as is often the case with pain maladies, they hit women harder. Dr. Charles estimates that one in four women suffer from migraines.
And if you’ve had a migraine, you know it is very difficult to be productive.
“We can’t cure people of migraines at this point,” said Dr. Charles. “But we can do quite a bit to improve quality of life.”
Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and can be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark quite place to lie down. The Mayo Clinic advises that some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms (aura), such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your arm or leg.
If you think there’s medication that can take them away, think again.
In fact, Dr. Charles emphasizes that sometimes the treatment of the migraine can actually make the condition worse.
“Narcotic analgesics can sometime turn migraines from episodic (occasional) to a chronic condition,” he warned.
Dr. Charles also addressed some lifestyle changes that people can make which can help those suffering from chronic pain conditions. He urged patients and other chronic pain sufferers to get some aerobic exercise.
“Get your heart going if you can,” he said.
He then addressed the crux of what many pain patients face: to stay hopeful, especially those who suffer from chronic conditions that interrupt their daily lives.
“It is difficult for a patient who has to walk the line between accepting the pain and looking for ways to get better,” Charles said, adding that he urges his patients to maintain hope and enthusiasm that they are going to get better.
UCLA’s Headache Research and Treatment Program uses basic research, clinical research, education and patient care to better understand and help both patients who suffer from headaches and the physicians who treat them.