The Headache Treatment Protocol
Treatment Objective: Supplement your medical treatment with behavioral health and wellness. Through evaluation of your unique headache pattern and the biofeedback process, learn how to become more self-aware on a deeper level to enhance your ability to identify key triggers, feelings, reactions, changes in physiology, and the patterns and dynamics of your headache condition. Learn and practice natural wellness strategies that may help correct headache triggering factors, and improve and restore health factors that are within your control. The biofeedback process can demonstrate your improvement, teach you how to use your own internal awareness, and help you self-correct the negative patterns on a daily basis, but most importantly, prior to the build-up or onset of a headache.
First Session Goals:
- Headache Evaluation (Location of your areas of pain diagram, identifying known symptom triggering factors with rating scale, description of pain, history of the problem, general lifestyle factors and daily stressors that may also contribute to headaches
- Headache Education
- Anatomy & physiology – learn about headache science through pictures-charts of muscles & nervous systems
- Science – General knowledge about headaches, factors that may trigger or exacerbate headache conditions
- Wellness – Natural principles, lifestyles factors, and health strategies that may help reduce headaches
EMG Surface Muscle Biofeedback Evaluation
Biofeedback (biology-feedback) – sensors placed over muscles can reveal surface muscle tension in real time and increments to enable you to have a more effective internal and external self-awareness of muscle tension patterns. Begin with EMG biofeedback tension evaluation of key muscles and muscle groups common in contributing to headache pain. These may include any muscles of the head, face, neck, shoulder, and upper back. Evaluate middle and lower back muscles when back pain and muscle tension may be involved.
Sessions 2-5 Headache Treatment Program Goals:
EMG Surface Muscle Biofeedback Corrective Training
Somatic Nervous System: the nervous system of the skeletal muscles and peripheral nerves. Gain somatic awareness.
Bio (biology) Feedback of this process occurs with the computer screen displaying the rise and fall tension patterns of the muscles involved though several visual pictures and numeric graphs. There is also sound feedback that may be used to support self-awareness of muscle tensing up and relaxing patterns. Through the computer screen feedback and also Dr. Allen’s supportive verbal feedback and training, the objective is to gain your own self-awareness and the use of healing strategies to learn how to correct unconscious muscle tensing and postural patterns, let those muscles relax at will, and restore relaxed harmony and integrity to the posture and structures of the upper body, head and neck. These skills may be learned and internalized through awareness, and practice in between sessions. The goal is to become an expert at your own muscle biofeedback, and to correct and restore optimal balance between muscle activity and relaxation. Additional wellness treatment approaches available for head and neck conditions due to head injuries and whiplash.
Ergonomics Training (Skeletal structure and working with gravity). Learn how to improve healthy posture and correct ways of using the body in daily life, at work, when studying, when practicing an instrument, when exercising, and in performing common daily life tasks. Dr. Allen has an ergonomic work station and numerous health products to demonstrate ways to support physical wellness at work.
Self-Awareness and Harmonizing Other Nervous Systems
The Autonomic Nervous System and Adrenal Glands: The brain to internal organs (heart, vascular system, gastro-intestinal, etc.). This also includes “fight or flight” stress response, and the internal relaxation response. This nervous system may be involved in contributing to migraine headache symptoms. Key strategies that may help restore a steady state of harmony to the autonomic nervous system includes diaphragmatic breathing and heart rate variability training, Autogenics and hand-feet warming, overall muscle and bodily relaxation, among other mental and physical techniques that are basic natural processes for adapting to stress and recovery.
The Central Nervous System: (brain, brainstem, spinal cord) – the brain communicates to the body. An overactive racing mind, or a mind filled with pattern of stressful thinking can trigger or exacerbate headache conditions. Key strategies that may help reduce headaches and restore harmony to the central nervous system includes quieting the mind, good sleep, meditation, yoga, chi gung, diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, guided imagery, among many other techniques that are natural processes for adapting to stress and recovery.
Heart Rate Variability and Temperature Biofeedback: Biofeedback of indirect measures of autonomic activity can reveal faulty breathing and heart rate patterns, and cold hands and feet temperature, which may reflect conditions that support headache symptoms. This can also serve as a self-awareness tool to help improve in these measures, and apply strategies for greater management of stress, reduction of anxiety, and to restore inner physical harmony.
Major Wellness Training Concepts to Reduce Headaches: Reduce the allostatic load (the sum total of all stressors and contributors causing the headaches). Alleviate dysponesis: become aware of faulty ergonomic posture, misplaced efforts, or unnecessary tensing of muscles. Then, through awareness, you can correct posture, relax muscles, and move toward better agility and coordination for a given task. Seek to eliminate causes, contributors, and perpetuators of headache symptoms. And lastly, Good stress management
Additional Wellness Strategies:
Stress management and coping skills training (learn ways to reduce stress and anxiety). Counseling and psychotherapy available for working with issues contributing to stress, anxiety, and depression. Support services for managing academic and work demands during headache episodes or periods.
Diet and wellness lifestyle tips for managing headaches, improving sleep, and restoring inner well-being.
Manage your life when headache patterns are episodic or chronic (how to reduce stress and headache symptoms, especially immediately prior to onset of headache, and enhance long-term wellness).
Dr. Ben Allen’s program works well along with a client’s ongoing medical and physical therapy treatment.
Length of Treatment Programs: 3-5 sessions for basic skills exposure and training. Additional sessions may be beneficial for more challenging conditions and to further enhance skills.
Provide practice strategies and educational training handouts for in between sessions.