Capital Institute for Neurosciences

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Headache Center Offers Non-Drug Interventions

Dr. Mitra AssadiMany people with severe chronic headaches receive just a cursory visit with their physician and leave with a prescription for a drug intervention that often fails to provide relief, said Mitra Assadi, MD, Director of the Capital Health Headache Center and Director of Pediatric Neurology

Dr. Assadi believes these patients can be helped through a variety of interventions, such as bio-feedback, acupuncture, nerve blocks, physical manipulation of head and neck, Botox injections and possibly some pharmacological interventions that follow a complete physical and history.

“We do use drug treatment, but only when appropriate,” said Dr. Assadi. “The truth is that about 20% of patients do not respond to drugs. Others may opt for non-drug interventions due to side effects, pregnancy and personal preference. Therefore, at the Capital Institute for Neurosciences, we offer a multi-disciplinary approach to headache treatment.”

Dr. Assadi, fellowship trained and widely published in the field of neurology, said many patients who are not properly diagnosed and treated rely on potentially unsafe quantities of over-the-counter analgesics or prescription painkillers.

“Most doctors label everything that comes through the door as migraine,” said Dr. Assadi. “In reality, the correct treatment depends on the proper diagnosis. The biggest challenge we encounter is patients who self-medicate with analgesics or prescription painkillers. This is an incorrect strategy often leading to rebound headaches.”

The International Classification of Headache Disorders specifies more than 200 types of headaches. Some examples of reasonably common (yet often unknown to doctors) include hemicrania continua, paroxysmal hemicrani and other forms of trigeminal autonomic cephalgias.

“Headaches are often under-treated (with prophylactic meds) and inappropriately treated (with pain killers),” said Dr. Assadi.

She is convinced that biofeedback is a non-drug therapy which can be successfully implemented in many patients. Biofeedback is a scientific method, enabling patients to control their autonomic pathways and disrupt the cascade of chemicals that lead to headache.

“In the past, scientists believed that the autonomic nervous system was not amenable to voluntary control. Later on, however, psychologists discovered that people can learn to control elements such as skin temperature, breathing and heart rate. People welcome this intervention and often prefer it to using medications.”

Nerve blocks and botox injections also can be helpful in preventing migraine.

The Capital Health Headache Center is the only headache center in New Jersey offering this wide-range of diagnostic and treatment services to treat headaches. Several of Dr. Assadi's recent publications related to headache disorders include research on the prevalence of migraines in adolescent girls and research on the genetic influences of migraine, both published in the Journal of Pediatric Neurology in 2012.

“We see patients living in constant pain and strive to give them their lives back,” Dr. Assadi said.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Assadi, call 609-537-7300.

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