For those who are among the 40 million Americans who suffer from chronic or severe headaches, the WVU Headache Center provides personalized, empathetic care and a commitment to improving quality of life.
The WVU Headache Center is under the direction of David Watson, MD. With three fellowship-trained and certified headache specialists, the Headache Center is the only comprehensive headache program in West Virginia.
Physicians in the Headache Center work closely with specialists in neurosurgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, psychiatry, and radiology to help prevent headaches through medication, changes in behavior and nutrition, and other approaches. In addition, our doctors provide patients the means to deal with acute headaches, such as migraines, so future occurrences can be relieved quickly.
Twenty-five percent of women ages 25 to 55 suffer from migraines, and women outnumber men in terms of migraines by a ratio of three-to-one. In addition, 3 to 4 percent of people have chronic daily headaches.
Causes and Treatments
While there are many types and possible causes, the headaches treated by our specialists include:
- Acute and chronic head pain
- Chronic daily headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Intractable headaches
- Migraine headaches
- Tension headaches
Read more about what causes headaches.
Self Help Tips for Headaches
- Unless told otherwise, you should limit the use of any over-the-counter (OTC) medication that you use for headaches. OTC’s can quickly backfire and lead to increased frequency of headaches, even when used only a couple of times per week.
- You should limit the use of any prescription pain medication, such as opiates (narcotics) or fiorinal/fioricet, for the same reason as above.
- Getting regular, refreshing sleep is very important. Set a specific bedtime that would allow for 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep. Do not watch television, listen to the radio, do work, or argue in bed. If your bed partner snores, wear earplugs or sleep in another room. Have the same bedtime on the weekend as you have during the week.
- Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet. Avoid common food triggers like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrites. These are commonly found in snack foods like potato chips, hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats. Decrease your intake of red meat and increase chicken or fish. Drink 6 – 8 glasses of water per day.
- Get regular exercise. A brisk walk for 30 minutes 3 -4 days per week is enough at the beginning. Improving your heart health and improving your blood flow will have beneficial effects on your headaches.
- Eliminate caffeine from your diet. Caffeine is one of the worst chemicals for anyone with headaches. Even one cup per day can be enough to increase the frequency and severity of your headaches. Be aware that even decaffeinated coffee and tea have some caffeine in them.
- Find someone with whom you can talk about your headaches and other stresses or concerns. This could be a religious leader, professional counselor, psychologist, or even just a good friend. It is important to be able to talk openly and honestly about what you are going through.
- Begin a stress reduction program with meditation, prayer, or biofeedback. Many resources for biofeedback and relaxation are available on the internet.
- Being involved in your regular activities despite the headaches is necessary. Make every effort to go to work, school, or social activities even if you have a headache. You cannot let your headaches control you. You must control them and not allow them to dictate to you how you will live.
- Avoid natural cures for your headache unless you discuss them with your doctor first. Many products claiming to cure or treat headaches can actually be detrimental to your headaches.
Among the various types of treatments provided at the Headache Center are:
- Nerve blocks
- Trigger-point injections
- Naturopathic treatments such as butterbur, coenzyme Q10, and magnesium
When scans such as MRI or other tests are appropriate, our specialists have access to some of the world’s most advanced technology to assist with diagnosis and treatment planning.
The WVU Headache Center welcomes patients age 18 and older. Referrals from a physician are required.
David Watson, M.D., chair of Neurology and director of the WVU Headache Center, describes the comprehensive approach his team brings to specialized treatment of migraine, cluster headache, tension headache, trigeminal neuralgia, and more.
WVU Medicine neurologist Umer Najib, MD, explains when BOTOX® should be explored as an approach to managing migraines.
Neurosurgeons treat their patients through the use of a delicate, targeted procedure; the best neurosurgeons are skilled at several. WVU Medicine neurosurgeon Robert A. Marsh, MD, PhD, says his best approach is unique to each patient, and considers wishes as well as needs.