Insights into Headaches: Looking at
Brain Injuries as a Model of Headaches
Currently I am treating patients with headaches who still suffer with the common fifteen to twenty standard treatments.
Nevertheless, we have yet "to arrive" and gain all the answers.
Below are some places that you, your doctor or other researchers can consider for future targets of treatment -- especially if treatments fail. It is merely a small sample of topics we are exploring:
- Migraines and brain trauma both have magnesium changes. In this regard both are like alcohol--a brain toxin. All three can lower intracellular magnesium in the brain. Anything that lowers magnesium in the brain cells or increases calcium inside brain cells is likely to increase migraines.
- An increased amount of exciting amino acids can inflame brain tissue.
- Changes in the serotonin system happen in brain trauma and migraines, these might include receptor number, percentages of receptors, and serotonin neurotransmitter levels.
- A change in inflammation system chemicals alters brain cells and neighboring cells. Inflammation chemicals are called interleukins. When you hit your hand and it swells, the swelling is partly due to many changes in your interleukins, which influence the tissues and cells around the injured cells. There are over 20 of these chemicals, that are rarely measured and many can be tested. Perhaps they should be measured, if you have failed all common treatments.
- Brain injury increases potassium and sodium inside neurons.
- Changes in the way glucose is handled in the brain.
- Irregularities in one neurotransmitter system, the catecholamines, exist in both brain injury and migraines.
- The brain makes its own morphine-like pain killers, but this system is disrupted in migraines.
- Nitric oxide is a messenger in the body. In the body there are different types of nitric oxide receptors, e.g., some are found in the brain and some are associated with the penis—Viagra works on one in them. Insults to the brain and migraines both result in changes of this system in the brain.
I appreciate the research of Dr. RC Packard and Dr. LP Ham for their paper in the journal Headache for some of these ideas.
James L. Schaller, MD, MAR