In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Using Interdisciplinary Treatment in the Management of Chronic Headache Pain

physical activity

Millions of people suffer from chronic headache pain around the country. It can be debilitating, often keeping people from engaging in their everyday activities. The good news is that there are numerous treatments that people can use to help find some relief. One recent study put the idea of using an interdisciplinary treatment approach to the test to see if it impacted the number of pain days people experienced.

The study was conducted over a five-year period and included 101 headache patients. The patients participated in the survey by receiving various treatments with a two-week, full-day, and semi-inpatient multimodal pain therapy program at the beginning and the 12-month point. The study results are published in the April 2022 issue of the journal BMC Neurology [1].

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The goal was to see if using an interdisciplinary approach would reduce the number of pain days that the patients experience. The different methods they were taught in the treatment program include mindfulness-based techniques to deal with the pain, psychological coping strategies, relaxation techniques, and physical activity. The physical activity aspect included getting strength training and doing stretches.

The therapy approach uses a multimodal pain therapy program that provided patients with various tools that they can use to help address chronic headache pain. They are options that they can use for the long term and can do so as they feel they need to. Learning the variety of ways to help address the pain provided patients with a way to feel more in control, and when they think about the health benefits of engaging in the therapies, it motivates them to want to use them again.

The researchers found that the patients acquired long-term skills for addressing chronic headache pain. Of the different modalities that patients learned, one stood out as being positively associated with reducing the number of pain days that the patients experienced. The option that stood out was physical activity. They found that at the 12-month mark, there was a higher frequency of the patients engaging in athletic sports.

This study supports the idea that those with chronic headache pain should have a physical activity module as part of their treatment plan. Getting the patient to engage regularly in athletic exercises may be what they need to experience fewer painful days each month. Not only may it help with chronic headache pain, but it can benefit overall health, too.

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  1. BMC Neurology. Chronic headache patients’ health behavior and health service use 12 months after interdisciplinary treatment – what do they keep in their daily routines? April 2022.

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

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