Why is headache so hard to understand, and ultimately treat?
The list of Headache, is arguably one of the longest in medicine. Currently there are over 200 classified types for physicians to choose from – with roughly 18-19 falling into subcategories like ‘common types, migraine categories, rare headache types and uncommon types.
Each Headache Type has 5-6 ‘features, or symptoms’
Examples of associated symptoms might include nausea; vomiting; pain experienced on one side of the head, verses two-sides; a teary-eye; waking the sufferer from sleep; and many more. The list is very exhaustive to learn for both the treating physician and the patient explaining these ‘features’.
Add in the fact that symptoms often overlap, or they can mimic other potential problems, this can make the diagnosis challenging for the physician – and equally challenging for the sufferer to explain these symptoms to a doctor..
Physicians are under-trained in medical school
According to Doctor Elizabeth Leroux, MD, FRCPC, Professor adjoint de clinique, service de neurologie medical trainees (future physicians) probably do not receive adequate teaching about headaches and migraines during their medical training. Once they are in practice they may feel insufficiently prepared to manage migraine, especially complex cases of chronic migraine.
There are a few dozen Specialists (Headache Neurologists) in Canada to diagnose and treat millions of Canadians that suffer from Headaches or Migraines.
Reported wait times to see a specialist can vary from a few months, to a few years. Some Specialists have been forced to close their practice to new patients. Patients become desperate, and when this happens occasionally they pursue ad hoc remedies that are untested or they over-indulge in over-the-counter medicines – sometimes at a dangerous toxic level.