The Key to Good Headache Treatment Is Empathy, Neurologist Says

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What is most essential to achieving good headache care? Does technology make the biggest difference? What about training? Experience? While all those things are important, a leading neurologist, Dr. Gennaro Bussone, wrote that empathy may be a doctor’s best skill when it comes to properly treating headaches. This is a good reminder that it’s worth it to take the time to find someone who truly cares about you and takes the time to understand your headaches.

A male Neuromuscular dentist offer empathy with a female patient who is suffering with TMJ. This is causing unwanted headaches and migraines.

Doctors Need to Read Subjective Symptoms

When laying out the case for empathy, Dr. Bussone starts by pointing out that the symptoms of headache are almost entirely subjective.

Patients will describe their symptoms, but there is little that doctors can measure, and even the measurable qualities often show up only during an attack, which makes them hard to observe. It’s not that objective diagnosis is impossible, it’s just often not enough.

With little objective evidence, doctors have to depend on their relationship with their patients. Patients need to feel open to talking about their symptoms, and sometimes it’s a minor aside that provides the key insight. This also means that doctors have to be attentive to the details of their patients’ symptoms. They need to take time listening, not focus on moving patients through the assembly line.

Headaches Are Mysterious

The lack of good measurable qualities for headaches is partly responsible for our limited understanding of headaches. The fact remains that we don’t really know enough about headaches to use an overarching treatment protocol. Even proven treatments are effective for only about half of headache sufferers. Many headaches have to be treated individually.

Careful listening by doctors helps distinguish the different features of individual headaches to find the best treatment in each case.

This can not only help avoid misdiagnosis in each individual case, it can potentially advance our overall understanding of headaches. Collecting details can lead to the discovery of patterns which can then become principles of headache care.

Headaches Can Be Complex

Finally, headaches often have multiple causes, and these can overlap. In this case, headache treatment doesn’t mean just one treatment, it can mean providing care for multiple contributing causes.

Unfortunately, this can be difficult for doctors, who may approach patients like an exam question that has to have a single “right” answer. But if doctors learn to listen more carefully, they can get patients to illuminate the multiple potential causes of their headaches.

Find a Doctor with Empathy

Unfortunately, most doctors these days aren’t prepared to follow through with Dr. Bussone’s recommendations. Instead of focusing on a single patient and giving them the time necessary to illuminate the true cause of headaches, most doctors are eager to get patients through their office. It’s no wonder that many people seeking headache care just get prescriptions for strong opioid pain relievers. Even teens seeking headache care are commonly prescribed opioids.

But some doctors are prepared to take the time to listen to your headache symptoms. Don’t be surprised: many of them are dentists.

If you are looking for a dentist who will take the time to listen to your headache symptoms, please call (615) 383-6787 today for an appointment with neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kent E. White at the Center for Advanced Dentistry in Nashville, TN.