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Crushing Headaches

How do you spell relief? A new center is helping patients put an end to head pain.

Headaches have more causes than there are pain remedies on the druggist’s shelf. Some can be caused by, say, simple exertion; others, by rare but serious underlying conditions like aneurysms or brain tumors.  And don’t be surprised if this article gives you a headache. As Jason Rosenberg points out, even the mere suggestion of head pain can bring it on.

Rosenberg, an assistant professor of neurology, is founder and director of the Headache Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.  The center draws on the expertise of more than a dozen physicians in specialties like vascular medicine, pediatrics, pain management, neurosurgery, otolaryngology and psychiatry.
Dr. Jason Rosenberg

“We’re trying to provide an umbrella, beginning with the first patient contact through diagnosis, referral and follow-up,” Rosenberg says. “The center is a place where patients can get most of their care in a comprehensive way but also a gateway to all of the other specialists or therapists they might require.”

Headaches, says Rosenberg, are frequently misdiagnosed.  “Most of the severe, recurring ones are migraines. In fact, the overwhelming majority of patients seen by headache providers have migraines or variations of migraines.  In those with genetically super-sensitive ‘migraine brains,’ headaches can be triggered by even the most commonplace activities, like oversleeping or eating Chinese food.” 

The inspiration for the Headache Center arose out of a simple equation of supply and demand.  As a resident in the Department of Neurology from 2000 to 2003, Rosenberg began seeing high volumes of headache patients.  “Then, when I joined the faculty, I delved into the medical literature on headaches and discovered that these were patients we could actually make better.  With many of our neurological illnesses, that isn’t always the case.  At the same time, I also realized there was a huge, unmet need in the community.”

Though the University of Maryland and Georgetown had small headache clinics and several Hopkins physicians had headache specialty practices, the nearest large academic medical center devoted to head pain was in Philadelphia at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.  Hopkins’ Headache Center now fills the void in the Maryland region.

The center had what Rosenberg calls a “stealth launch” about a year ago but really got rolling last fall. Working out of an outpatient clinic at Bayview, Rosenberg and nurse practitioner Cynthia Faherty now are seeing about 200 patients a month.

On The Web:
The Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital