Omaha Headache Clinic uses non-medication approach to ease headache pain
Omaha Headache Clinic
18460 Wright St #9
• About 78 percent of adults experience a tension-type headache, the most common form of headache, at some point in their lives.
• About 13 percent of Americans suffer from migraine headaches.
• One in every four U.S. households has a member who suffers from migraines.
• Migraines are three times more common in women than men.
Source: National Headache Foundation, headaches.org
When Dr. Tereshel Johnson’s patients describe the intense pain of a headache, Johnson can relate. Johnson once suffered from severe headaches and migraines. Like many of her patients, she tried medication after medication, but nothing worked for long. “It’s so severe, it can take the place of everything else around you,” she said of the pain.
Johnson’s personal experiences led her to open the Omaha Headache Clinic in 2008 to help fellow headache sufferers. At the clinic, Johnson and Dr. Toby Green use a comprehensive approach to treat headaches, migraines and whiplash without medication. “My goal is to lessen the frequency, duration and severity of headaches,” Johnson said.
To address the root cause of headaches, Johnson uses a variety of assessment tools. Postural X-rays allow her to examine the shape and wear of the patient’s spine. A number of assessments add additional insight, such as range of motion tests, reflex tests, functional movement exams, skin sensitivity tests and neurological tests.
Treatment varies for each individual, but might include stretching, soft tissue therapy and ischemic compression, a physical therapy technique. Johnson may recommend corrective exercises for the patient to complete at home. Typically, patients feel relief within one to two weeks, Johnson said.
Patient Mark Anderson used to experience back pain and debilitating headaches that would wake him from sleep. Other physicians prescribed powerful pain pills; one recommended neck surgery. Hoping to avoid that outcome as well as limit medication, he worked with Green and Johnson to find an alternative.
In addition to adjusting his spine, the doctors utilized traction, a technique that involves the prolonged stretching of joints and ligaments. Anderson also completed at-home exercises aided by a workout band and a small ball. After two weeks, he could stop taking his medication. “My health is much better overall,” he said.
Johnson likened the process of treating headaches to peeling away the layers of an onion. For some patients, it may take time to unveil the root cause of their headaches and alleviate pain.
Patient Mary Reeg-Dhingra came to the Omaha Headache Clinic with a long history of daily headaches that prevented her from doing the things she loved, like working in the backyard. “When you have this constant pain and pressure in your head and nothing seems to be helping it, it’s tough to find energy,” she said.
Through assessment, Johnson discovered that Reeg-Dhingra suffered from a postural issue. A pharmacist, Reeg-Dhingra often bent over and looked downward at work. To correct her posture, Johnson employed tissue therapy, chiropractic adjustment, traction and stretching. Reeg-Dhingra also had exercises to complete at home. “It’s very comprehensive, much more than just the typical chiropractic adjustment,” Reeg-Dhingra said.
After several weeks of treatment, Reeg-Dhingra’s headaches decreased in frequency and intensity. Now, having a headache is an unusual event, rather than a normal part of life. As she continues treatment, her outlook for the future is positive. “Not being in pain brings you a sense of mental relief, but more importantly, it gives you energy,” she said.
Johnson said posture issues related to work — especially sedentary, computer-based desk jobs — are frequent headache culprits. Sitting at a computer causes people to slump, pushing their head and neck forward as they strain to see the screen. The improper alignment puts stress on the neck and can cause head pain.
A doctor can work to correct the imbalance and suggest small changes that reduce pain. “Sometimes it’s a simple fix – but people don’t realize it,” she said.
Johnson said when patients make their way through her door, oftentimes “they are at their wits end,” she said. They may have seen multiple doctors and specialists, undergone a CT or MRI scan or tried physical therapy. Still, the pain won’t go away, and patients may find it hard to concentrate at work or care for their children.
“I want to let those people know that I was there, I know how it is,” she said. “There’s treatment that can help.”