Articles of interest
22nd April 2021
Book in Focus
Helping You Successfully Manage Your Headache and Migraine
A Patient’s Guide
By Jitka Vanderpol
Helping You Successfully Manage Your Headache and Migraine: A Patient’s Guide provides ‘GP-level’ knowledge about the diagnosis and management of headaches and migraines, in simple and understandable language.
A combination of my own experiences with pain and a desire to help all patients who feel they have tried all available treatment options and found themselves at the end of the road led to the creation of this book.
In 2019, I went through my own health battle after I had major surgery and experienced a severe level of pain, from which some of my patients were also suffering. Once you feel it yourself, you understand that, even though you have tried all logical treatments and interventions, the pain can still be there.
During a period of limited contact with my patients, I felt the need to help and support them, and writing this book is my way of doing so, while also serving readers I will never meet. Through the book, I try to enable sufferers to self-diagnose and successfully self-manage their headache.
There are over 150 different types of headaches included in the International Classification of Headache Disorders, and there are often different treatments for each kind: if you treat a migraine as if it were a tension headache, the treatment will not work. The book highlights the difference between these types of headache, helping patients self-diagnose their condition. In addition, it showcases both pharmaceutical remedies and non-pharmacological methods supported by a holistic approach that can help treat and prevent headaches.
After the outbreak of COVID-19, I feel that this is more important than ever before. Face-to-face appointments have been kept to a minimum, which has consequently limited what physicians can offer. When combined with the added headache triggers that have come with the pandemic, such as stress and anxiety, the need for a book that allows chronic sufferers to combat their own symptoms becomes even clearer.
This book is the first of its kind, and an ‘easy-to-digest’ style was a key consideration for me while writing it. Being mindful that technical expertise does not always come hand-in-hand with simple communication, I turned to my daughter for assistance. As a student of bio-medical science and an expert in graphics and digital communication, she created illustrations for the book, enabling me to demonstrate in simple terms both the headache itself and how the treatment works. Not being a headache expert made her the ideal person to write a glossary chapter for the book, and her help has been invaluable in making sure the book explains intricate and complex concepts in layman’s terms.
The first section of the book focuses on how patients can better understand which specific type of headache or migraine they are facing, if they have a primary or secondary type of headache, if there is any reason for concern and further investigation (such as brain imaging), and when to seek the help of their GP or headache expert.
The second part provides information on what treatment options are available to a patient in dealing with their specific type of headache. This involves not only pharmacological methods, but also non-pharmacological treatments and even a holistic approach that is often not explored, or even considered, in the NHS, but is easily available to every patient.
My experience as a headache and migraine expert has shown that up to 70% of patients would improve significantly by changing just their lifestyle and the way they eat and live, and even by adopting other, more holistic methods of combating chronic pain. Interestingly, in our society, where everyone is looking for “a quick fix”, such holistic approaches are not usually considered at the start of the problem. When we get a headache or migraine, we take painkillers and expect them to always miraculously stop the pain. This may work in some cases, but, unfortunately, in patients with a chronic headache or migraine, analgesia as a quick-fix solution is not effective, and can actually make the problem worse by putting many patients into a ‘vicious circle’ of treating the headache they have today but getting a rebound headache tomorrow from the painkillers they have taken. Without realising it, taking painkillers increasingly frequently can make the situation even worse.
Studying at the First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague gave me an alternative perspective to the NHS, enabling me to consider conditions through both the evidence-based and holistic lenses. This allowed me to gain insight into natural and herbal remedies that have been used for centuries. I have seen first-hand the positive impact they can have on some headaches, migraines, and other pain conditions in physiotherapy and rehabilitation centres in historical spa towns throughout Europe. There is a long tradition of a convergence between evidence-based medicine and preventative health care in the Czech Republic, which is a major emerging trend worldwide.
In addition to helping to manage existing headaches and migraines, the book provides insights into how making proactive life changes can help to prevent them happening in the future. The biggest thing here is that there is not a ‘one-treatment-fits-all’ approach. It’s a combination of a healthy diet, exercise, living a balanced lifestyle, and pacing yourself on a day-to-day basis. Stress is such a big factor in headaches and migraines, which means that it’s so important for people to be able to manage life, take a break when they need to, get some fresh air, and not always work late into the evenings. As I always say, “you need to take the time to look after yourself”.
Dr Jitka Vanderpol has been a Consultant Neurologist since 2005. She co-developed a new ‘Close to Home’ neurology service in Cumbria, UK, and currently leads the Cumbria Headache Service she established in 2012. She graduated from the First Medical Faculty of Charles University, Prague, in 1998, and was nominated to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London in 2012. She completed her MBA (exec.) with merit at Durham University Business School, UK, in 2014. Dr Vanderpol is an innovative clinician and researcher, and a leader on novel headache research. She was awarded First Place in the Innovative Technology or Device category at the Bright Ideas in Health Awards 2015. She is an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire UK, a faculty member and speaker at the Headache Academy and Neurology Academy, UK, and a nationally recognised expert in the field of headache and migraine.
Helping You Successfully Manage Your Headache and Migraine: A Patient’s Guide is available now at a special 25% discount when using the code PROMO25 at the checkout of the CSP website.
Also available via Amazon, where it can be purchased as a Kindle eBook.