Can You Learn to Avoid a Headache?

Originally published March 22, 2024

Last updated April 30, 2024

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Woman practices meditation, relaxation and stress relief to manage recurrent headaches and migraine.

You can lessen the risk of tension headache, migraine and cluster headaches by following some best practices.

Lauren Green, DO, a neurologist from the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center, part of Keck Medicine of USC, explains how experts can help patients learn to deal with headaches.

Tension headache. Migraine. Cluster headaches. Sinus headaches. As someone who personally has dealt with migraines, I understand the pain and symptoms that a headache can cause.

I feel deep compassion for patients when they first see our providers. These patients feel frustrated that nothing has seemed to work for them in the past. Luckily, there is hope.

Our physicians at the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center, part of Keck Medicine of USC, collaborate with occupational therapists from the Lifestyle Redesign for Headaches program. The Lifestyle Redesign for Headaches program, which is the only one of its kind in the United States, is based at the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Together, our specialists work to identify headache triggers and then create customized treatment plans to help patients get their symptoms under control. We work as a cohesive, collaborative team that includes occupational and physical therapists, pain psychologists, otolaryngologists, audiologists, neurosurgeons and neurologists.

What causes headaches?

Many factors can influence the chance of developing headaches, whether it’s genetics, hormones, head trauma or another cause. There are hundreds of different types of headaches.

We treat patients who typically are dealing with stubborn, difficult-to-treat headaches and migraines. These patients have found dealing with their headaches unmanageable, and they need a team approach to help them get their headaches under control.

A holistic approach

Lifestyle can play a major role in headache care. At our center, patients get started by meeting with one of our neurologists.

After that initial evaluation, the patient is seen by one of the Lifestyle Redesign occupational therapists who further investigate what may be prompting the patient’s headaches. Together, they’ll review things like the patient’s sleep hygiene, eating habits, exercise routine, ergonomics and how stress can cause headaches.

We help the patient start a headache log to try to identify headache triggers. This information is then used to develop a treatment plan tailored to the patient, including changes to the patient’s daily routines — changes that they can implement in a way that makes the most sense for them.

Improving one’s daily lifestyle and reducing stress can help mitigate the potential risk of a headache or migraine.

Get help from headache experts

Many people who suffer from recurrent headaches don’t get the care they need. People are busy, and it can be challenging for them to take care of themselves in addition to everything else they’re handling in life.

That’s where our program can help. Providing an additional layer of support and guidance to patients can sometimes make the difference between managing their headaches and maybe having fewer headaches. Our specialists help patients devote time to determining the cause of their headaches and making a plan to avoid them.

Thankfully, when patients go to a headache center, they’re usually pretty open to suggestions and ideas. By the time they get to us, they may already have seen two or three other neurologists in the community. Very few patients will decline occupational therapy at that point.

It definitely takes a team approach. As neurologists, we can certainly prescribe medications to help. But mitigating headaches often requires a layered approach, and the patient must also make lifestyle adjustments.

Finding relief from headaches

We’ve seen how additional support can make all the difference for patients and lead to fewer headaches. It’s so rewarding to celebrate the amazing relief patients find when a treatment plan finally clicks. 

Patients who have gone through our Lifestyle Redesign for Headaches program experience improved self-efficacy and quality of life, and they have been better able to participate in the activities they love.

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If you live with severe headaches or neuralgia, our specialists can help you manage symptoms so you can live pain-free.
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Lauren Green
Lauren Green, DO, is a neurologist at the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center at Keck Medicine of USC.