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Donations Support Headache and Migraine Research at Barrow

Donations Support Headache and Migraine Research at Barrow

Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Headache

Innovative research offers new hope for headache and migraine sufferers

“Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”

This used to be the standard prescription whenever someone complained to their doctor of a headache—in the world of 1960s TV commercials, that is. Mom or Dad would have a hard day at work and come home with a splitting headache. Then came the two pills and, next thing you know, no more headache!

But here in the real world, chronic headache is not a one-size-fits-all disease, and there is no one-size-fits all treatment. Taking two aspirin for a migraine headache is like fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun.

The Lewis Headache Center at Barrow Neurological Institute

Jan Lewis knows this all too well. Prior to coming to Barrow Neurological Institute and meeting with its world-class team of headache specialists, led by Kerry Knievel, DO, Jan had suffered from chronic, often debilitating, migraine pain for years. It affected nearly every facet of her life, from work to spending time with her family. But thanks to Dr. Knievel’s multidisciplinary approach to migraine treatment, Jan is once again able to enjoy traveling, visiting her friends, and playing with her grandchildren. Read more about her story here.

“Dr. Knievel has helped significantly reduce the frequency and severity of my attacks and has allowed me to lead a full and happy life,” Jan says.

To honor the impact Barrow made on her life, Jan and her husband, Tom Lewis, established the Jan and Tom Lewis Migraine Treatment Program at Barrow in 2017. In 2022, the Lewises committed an additional $3 million in support of headache care at Barrow. In honor of their generosity, Barrow renamed the Program as the Lewis Headache Center to reflect a broadening of research and patient care. The goal is for the Lewis Headache Center to grow into a world-class treatment and research center for headache disorders that includes a wellness program, clinical trials, research, and patient support. 

The Impact of Chronic Headache and Migraine

More than 42 million Americans live with chronic headache or migraine, according to the National Headache Foundation, which means that even if you aren’t personally affected, chances are you know someone who is. Headache is among the most common neurological diseases worldwide, and it affects both children and adults.

Headache disorders run the gamut, from tension headache to migraine. In between are a variety of headache disorders with different precipitating factors and treatments, all causing pain in the head or face. Many people can recognize an allergy-related headache, a sinus headache, a vision-related headache, a hunger-related headache, and a caffeine-withdrawal headache. Then, there’s cluster headache, which brings excruciating pain to one side of the face, near the eye. 

The big one—migraine headache—comes in phases and is characterized by a set of classic symptoms: severe, throbbing pain; sensitivity to light, sound, and smell; nausea or vomiting; possibly confusion, blurred vision, or slurred speech; and what’s called “aura,” flashes of light or tingling sensations that warn a migraine attack is imminent. Those seeking relief may need to lie down in a dark room for a length of time until the severe symptoms pass. Attacks can be debilitating and may last hours, or even days. 

Migraine can be classified based on how often patients experience symptoms. In “episodic” migraine, a person experiences fewer than 15 headache days per month for three months or longer; and in “chronic” migraine, a person experiences 15 or more headache days per month for three months or longer.

Because it is so disabling, headache represents a substantial economic burden as well. In fact, billions of dollars in productivity are lost every year in the U.S. and around the world due to workplace absenteeism caused by headache disorders.

Groundbreaking Headache Research

The brain remains one of the most complex and mysterious organs of the body, and only over time does it give up its secrets. Drug therapy for headache works on two levels: acute medications taken immediately upon headache onset to relieve pain and restore function, and preventive medications taken daily to reduce the severity of future attacks or prevent them from happening. These therapies may take the form of pills, injections, or nerve blocks.

At Barrow, migraine specialists are conducting innovative research to find better ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent headache disorders. That includes gaining more insight into the mechanisms of headache and migraine and how to target treatment to individual patients. Unlocking new treatment options has the potential to greatly improve daily life for patients suffering from headache disorders. To this end, the Lewis Headache Center’s research program encompasses both investigator-initiated studies and industry-sponsored studies. 

Barrow headache neurologist Shane Root, MD, is leading an investigator-initiated clinical trial that evaluates the effectiveness and tolerability of standard-of-care occipital nerve block injections for the preventative treatment of migraine. The study has the potential to not only improve preventative headache care, but also improve insurance coverage for nerve block injections.

Barrow headache neurologist Jennifer Robblee, MD, is leading an investigator-initiated study that utilizes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to analyze and compare the changes happening in the brain during status migrainosus. Status migrainosus is a relentless headache attack that lasts more than 72 hours and does not respond to traditional treatment. It is associated with severe disability, a worse migraine prognosis, and higher rates of hospitalization for patients. Using MRI to better understand the brain changes in status migrainosus ultimately could lead to improved treatment for these patients. 

The Lewis Headache Center also has several ongoing industry-sponsored studies, including one that evaluates the efficacy and safety of the drug Qulipta when added to BOTOX for the preventative treatment of chronic migraine. Another industry-sponsored study tracks the responses of specific migraine patient subpopulations to standard-of-care treatments and compares them to the responses from the larger migraine patient population.

Headache and the Whole Person

The headache specialists at Barrow take a holistic approach, offering individualized, multifaceted treatment focusing on the specific patient’s overall health and well-being. This includes not only medications, but also a Wellness Program to address comorbidities that can worsen or hinder the management of headache pain. 

The following all are part of the Wellness Program at the Lewis Headache Center:

  • Physical therapy: Improving muscle strength, correcting postural deficits, and focusing on the mind-body connection can help patients reduce their headache pain.
  • Dietary consultations: Patients can meet with a dietitian to identify which foods or beverages may be triggering their headache.
  • Mindfulness: Learning to regulate heart rate, breathing, and muscle responses helps individuals to cope with pain and the body’s response to stress.
  • Yoga: Regularly practicing certain yoga poses, stretches, and breathing patterns can ease migraine pain.
  • Psychology: Patients can meet with a clinical psychologist to help alleviate some of the psychological strain that comes with headache, which includes anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.
  • Social work: These services assist patients with care planning; health care system navigation; advocacy related to workplace rights, accommodations, and disability; and finding community resources.

Funding for Headache and Migraine Research

The team at the Lewis Headache Center is working to transform the lives of individuals living with headache disorders through cutting-edge treatment, compassionate care, innovative research, and a comprehensive Wellness Program. This is only possible through the generosity of Barrow Neurological Foundation donors.

Donate to Support Headache and Migraine Research at Barrow

Please donate to the Lewis Headache Center at Barrow to support innovative research and unsurpassed patient care for migraine and headache disorders! Call us at (602) 406-3041 or visit us online.

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