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Could Headache School Be Right for You?

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Could Headache School Be Right for You?

Jun 25, 2021

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Can you believe that there's a school actually called Headache School? And if you have headaches, you might want to go to this school. So we're going to talk to Dr. Jared Bartell. He's assistant professor in neurology. He's a doctor, but he's also an expert in headache. He did his fellowship in headache medicine, they call it and today we're going to find out more about the University of Utah Health Headache School, why you have one, what it is, and who can benefit. So Dr. Bartell, thank you for being on the show today. I do appreciate it very much.

Dr. Bartell: Thanks, Scot. Happy to be here.

Interviewer: Yeah. So tell me a little bit briefly, I just I'm curious. So headache medicine is what it's called, that you do. Explain the additional training you've had and what that means?

Dr. Bartell: Yeah. So I finished my neurology residency at the University of Wisconsin. And in neurology, you learn about all aspects of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, various things that affect the central nervous system and the peripheral nerves too. But headache is certainly within that and we learn a lot about headache in residency. For those people that want to do more outpatient neurology, headache is really a big part of that.

So I spent this last year doing headache fellowship at University of Utah training with the guys there at the university. I learned about various procedures to use for headache, things like Botox, nerve blocks, the different types of medicines that you can use, both for prevention and for rescue of headaches. The nice thing about headache medicine these days is that there really are a lot of new treatments available within the last even couple of years there have been a number of new medicines that are all fairly expensive right now. Insurance tends to pay for them as long as you've tried a few other medicines first, but it's definitely an exciting time to be in the field as a provider of headache medicine, and it's been a great opportunity for me to help patients as well.

Interviewer: Yeah. That's pretty cool. I know headaches can really be debilitating to some people. It can really just really affect the quality of their life, their ability to enjoy life, their ability to do what they have to do. Headache School. So what is Headache School?

Dr. Bartell: So Headache School is a program that we are offering at the University of Utah, and in collaboration with Danielle Henry Foundation to educate patients and their loved ones about headache in terms of treatment and what causes them and just every aspect of headache.

Interviewer: And it's virtual and online, and you can find back episodes on YouTube. So there are a lot of different kinds of headaches. Why would somebody with a headache want to come to the Headache School or watch some of these videos? Why wouldn't they just say, "Just give me some aspirin. Tell me what it is I need to do to solve my headache"? Why are you finding people who are finding this interesting, and coming and showing up?

Dr. Bartell: So they're really a lot of headaches that . . . So you can think about just little everyday headaches that most people get as being responsive to an over-the-counter medicine like aspirin or ibuprofen or Tylenol. But unfortunately, a lot of people have much more severe headaches that really don't respond to those types of medicines. And that actually can get worse with chronic use of things like aspirin or Tylenol. And it can actually cause something called a rebound headache or a medication overuse headache. For people that have chronic migraine or chronic tension type headache or various other types of even more unusual headaches, those types of over-the-counter medicines aren't as helpful. And so educating patients on the different types of treatments, whether that's medicines or non-medication therapies can be really helpful in treating their headache condition overall.

Interviewer: Talked to one of your colleagues, Dr. Pippitt, and she is an expert with headaches as well. And she says that for the most part, a primary care physician can take care of most people's headaches. So it sounds like Headache School is for somebody who has really struggled and hasn't found that answer to their headache because they do have more of an unusual headache and this gives them access to some experts that might just specialize in that particular type of headache. Is that correct?

Dr. Bartell: Yeah. I think so. I think that's a good way of thinking about it. Most primary care providers are excellent in treating headaches. Sometimes it takes 2, 3, 4, or 5, 10 medicines until you really find the right medication fit for that person's headache. Everybody's headaches are a little bit different. Even if you have migraine, for instance, you can have 10 migraine patients lined up and all of their headaches are a little bit different. And the physiology of their migraine can all be a little bit different such that different medicines work for some people and not for others.

Interviewer: So somebody that might have gone through the process of trying to find some satisfaction or some treatment for their headache really could benefit from Headache School. I'm looking at, man, you've got so many episodes already. Just to cover some of them, the cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for headaches, yoga, for headache and migraine, contraception options in migraine, headache, the basics, acupuncture self-care for a headache, pathophysiology of migraine. Sounds like you cover a lot of ground. And what benefit does this help with somebody then if they hear the lecture? What does that information usually do? How does that impact somebody?

Dr. Bartell: So, in Headache School, we have the benefit of having a number of different speakers coming from different backgrounds talking about their view of what headaches are, how to treat them, we have a pharmacist that has given us several talks, we have multiple different providers that treat patients clinically that have their own medical background to provide. You could do a bunch of your own personal research online, which you might find various blogs and find anecdotal ideas as to what to do and what your headaches are caused by and different things you can try. But really looping into how doctors think about your headaches and how a pharmacist might think and how a psychologist might think about headaches can really be helpful in better managing your headaches.

There have been many years, decades and decades of research into headaches and it's not all intuitive. So you might think that you can treat all of your headaches with Tylenol, you take Tylenol three times a day. And this seems to knock down your headache just a little bit. But as it turns out, somewhat counter-intuitively, that can worsen your headaches. It can cause rebound headaches, it can cause some other problems, it can cause liver problems. Different medicines can do things like that, but it's really helpful just to touch base with the headache medical establishment to know what Western medicine thinks about headaches. We do try to incorporate alternative ideas too, and there are many talks on not just true Western medications and that type of thing, but also these alternative therapies that are available.

Interviewer: I love that you have all sorts of experts. I never really thought of that as an advantage, I just thought, "Well, you go to a doctor." Maybe you go to a doctor who's an expert with headache. But as you said, you've got pharmacists, you've got people like psychiatrists or people that can help teach you a cognitive behavioral therapy, or you have people that know about how exercise impacts headaches. So just a lot of different opinions on how to maybe reduce the impact of your headache or the frequency of your headache. So that's pretty awesome.

It's also pretty awesome too because many people they don't live in Salt Lake City, they don't have access to one of these specialists. They can just make an appointment, but they can go to the Headache School and they can watch the lectures and it sounds like they can interact with that individual. At the end, it's not recorded, they could ask them questions and boy, just really making yourself available.

Dr. Bartell: It's true. We see our clinic, especially now more than ever, patients from all across the region. We see people in Nevada and Wyoming, Montana, Colorado. And this resource especially it's on YouTube, so anyone can see it. You could live in a different country and you have all of the videos available for free at your own pace. One thing that you may not realize is that with YouTube videos, you can actually adjust the speed of them too.

Interviewer: Yeah. It gives you access to these experts. It gives you access to this great expert information. Briefly, I want to hit on the skill building session. So you say you have some skill building sessions. What do those look like on Headache School? I get a lecture, what's the skill building session?

Dr. Bartell: So we have a number of talks on various issues, things like progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercise, guided relaxation. As of today, those are the most recent talks, but there are a number of courses that talk about these non-medicine options to treat headaches that you can just do on your own. You could do these multiple times a day, depending on what they are. And they can really help to have some synergy with the rest of the treatment that you're undergoing. It's one thing just to take a pill every day, but it's another thing to change your lifestyle in certain ways to really help to solidify the changes that your brain is undergoing as you're treating these headaches.

Interviewer: Headache school, it sounds like such a great resource and we will put a link to the University of Utah Health Headache School in the description for this particular podcast episode. Dr. Bartell, thank you very much for telling us a little bit more about Headache School. It's a great resource. Appreciate it.

Dr. Bartell: Thanks, Scot. Happy to be here. Appreciate it.