Overcoming Pain

Why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it

Brother, Can You Spare a Vicodin?

Chronic recurrent migraine headache as obstacle to achievement.

Many of us deal with financial headaches on a regular basis, but the results of a study just published in the journal “Neurology” demonstrate that the chronic pain of chronic financial woes is not just a tired utilization of figurative language.

The researchers found an association between the incidence and prevalence of migraine in men and women of similar incomes, with the least well-off having the highest rates. However, the remission rates were pretty much the same between the income groups studied, and did not appear to be related to age, sex, or race. These results appear to support the hypothesis that the psychosocial stress of having a lower income is associated with migraine headaches.

But what are the details of this association? What is the chronology of events?

Does the chronic recurrent migraine headache act as an inhibiting force of the afflicted, negatively impacting any potential for advancement in the workplace condition of, and thus limiting or depressing wages? Or does all that comes with being of a lower socioeconomic status—including an increased exposure to violence, bigotry and an inferior education system--- result in migraine headaches?

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The authors of the study contended that the impact of a lower economic status plays the etiologic role. However, it should be noted that chronic migraine headaches were not evaluated in this paper. And genetic components and other environmental factors need to be considered. Finally, the researchers used household income at the time of the interview—and not at the onset of migraine headache—so, we do not have a clear sense of what exactly the financial status of the subjects happened to be at the time the headaches began.

Migraine headaches affect approximately 12 percent of the population in this country, attacks consisting of a throbbing or pulsing pain, and often accompanied by light and sound sensitivity, not to mention nausea and vomiting. A typical migraine headache can be up to 72 hours in duration. They are responsible for a significant amount of disability in this country, and thus the more we know about them the more we can apply to the treatment of this painful condition.

Or at least we can approach the situation with knowing what we cannot change in a person or their lives.

Mark Borigini, M.D., is a board-certified rheumatologist who has devoted his career to treating illnesses that cause chronic pain and disability.

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