Headache & Behavioral Medicine

Dr. Richard A. Wyckoff & Associates

What is a headache?

Pain in the scalp, face, head and neck is often called a headache. But what are headaches and how can you be free of disabling frequent headaches?

Almost everyone gets an occasional headache. These can be effectively relieved with over the counter medications. However, over 45 million Americans have chronic headaches of sufficient severity to cause disability.

Most of these severe headaches (90%) are caused by stress reactions in muscles (tension headaches), or blood vessels (Migraine headaches), or both. A minority are caused by other diseases, such as traction headaches or inflammatory headaches. So, if you are suffering frequent headaches and your doctor has ruled out other diseases, it may be time to learn about stress management, biofeedback, and health behavior counseling to manage and prevent headache disability without medications.

What causes the pain?

Certain nerves are specialized as pain receptors. These nerves are called nocioceptors. When they are stimulated they send a message to the brain that interprets the signal and creates the sensation of pain. Usually this causes us to avoid whatever stimulated the nocioceptor, such as when we touch a hot stove. Pain, therefore is usually a good thing because it teaches us to be safer.

But stress related headaches often occur hours or days after stress events, or accumulate over many stress events. That makes stress related headaches hard to avoid by simply avoiding stress.

Stress causes muscles to tense and blood vessels to expand or constrict. It is the accumulated effect of these biological responses that cause headache. If we recovered completely between each stress event, we would never get a headache. Fortunately there is a way to learn to recover more effectively. This is called biofeedback.

What is stress management?

Stress management is a form of life style counseling where you learn to identify the sources of stress in your life and manage them more effectively. By combining stress management and biofeedback you will learn to manage both the events in your life that cause you stress and your biological response to those events. This enables you to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of headaches without depending upon medications.

What is Health Behavior Counseling?

Behavior medicine involves the application of psychological principles to health and medical conditions. Many diseases, such as headaches, for example, are caused, triggered or complicated by stress, nutrition, and our lifestyle choices. Health behavior counseling helps you to look at your attitudes, values and behaviors as they relate to your health and wellness and to make changes to promote your recovery and well being.

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a behavioral medicine procedure that uses sensitive computerized instruments to record how your muscles and blood vessels respond to stress and to display these events in real time on a monitor. By watching the screen you can learn to relax your muscles and blood vessels. Once you can do this quickly, you can then learn to do this after stressful events in your life without the instruments. It is totally painless and noninvasive.

Each session takes from 30 to 45 minutes. Most patients (70%) are headache free after 10-12 sessions.

Types of Headaches Treated

◊ Tension

◊ Migraine

◊ Cluster

◊ Hormaone

◊ Mixed

◊ Persistent Daily Headache

Is this covered by insurance?

Most insurance covers behavioral medicine treatment in part or in full. Some nationally recognized procedures such as neurofeedback and health behavior counseling are widely accepted but your insurance may or may not approve treatment using these procedure codes. In some cases, a particular policy requires these services to be billed as psychotherapy.

We are always happy to assist you in determining what your particular policy covers. And, of course we do submit claims for you so you aren’t stressed by insurance paperwork. We are participating providers for Premera, Regence, Medicare and many HMO’s. Call today to arrange an appointment and we will discuss our fees and determine how you can make this care affordable.

How can I learn more?

We are always happy to answer your questions during a FREE initial telephone inquiry. Call our office today to schedule a phone call with Dr. Wyckoff.