Neurologist: Don't Shrug Off Summer Headaches

Published: Sunday, July 2, 2017 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, June 25, 2018 - 10:39am
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(Photo courtesy Barrow Neurological Institute)
Dr. Knievel (left) treats a patient.

Between the heat, dehydration, air quality and July 4 fireworks, many Arizonans shrug off headaches as just another symptom of summer.

But Kerry Knievel, director of headache neurology at Barrow Neurological Institute, said we need to start taking headaches more seriously.

“It is important to seek treatment for them, because often patients have frequent headaches, and they are using over-the-counter medication, which can actually worsen their headaches if they take them too frequently," she said.

Knievel said that OTC ibuprofen — and especially Excedrin Migraine, a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine — can cause a medication overuse headache, also known as a rebound headache. The effect can make headaches more frequent and severe.

"So the patients actually perceive that their headaches are getting worse when, in fact, it’s the medications that they’re taking on a daily, or near-daily, basis, that are making them have these rebound headaches," Knievel said.

Doctors can prescribe more effective treatments and, for chronic sufferers, preventative meds. Patients with migraines can receive nerve blockers or Botox.

Knievel said tracking triggers and symptoms (there’s an app for that) can help, too.