Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Coping Skills Can Prevent or Relieve Headache Pain

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Coping Skills Can Prevent or Relieve Headache Pain

Article excerpt

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Medications have their rightful place in headache treatment, but a strong dose of some key coping and behavioral tools can go a long way toward helping patients manage their own headaches, Alvin E. Lake III, Ph.D., said at a symposium sponsored by the American Headache Society.

The placebo effect has long shown how powerful an influence perception can be in how patients experience pain, and research shows that effect to be particularly important in headaches, he said.

In fact, nearly every published headache study comparing drugs alone with a combination of drugs and behavior therapy has shown the combined treatment to be superior, said Dr. Lake, who is director of the division of behavioral medicine at the Michigan Head-Pain & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"We can emphasize the power of drugs in our interventions, or we can emphasize the coping skills, but it doesn't have to be either/or because there are ways to think of them together," he said.

An important starting point in teaching patients self-efficacy in headache control is to convey the sense of confidence that they can indeed prevent and control headaches, and that they can remain calm and continue to function, Dr. Lake said.

Establishing those core beliefs gives patients a critical sense of control over pain; research has shown that people's beliefs that they can accomplish something are better predictors of their actually accomplishing it than are most other factors, including past performance, he said. …

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