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Ask Stanford Med: Director of Stanford Headache Clinic taking questions on headache disorders

Headaches are the most common form of pain. The condition affects an estimated 60 million Americans and accounts for $30 billion in lost worker productivity. Migraines, which cause pulsating or throbbing pain in the head lasting four to 72 hours, affect roughly 12 percent of Americans and more commonly occur in women than men.

While common treatments range from popping over-the-counter pain pills to lying in a dark room with an ice pack strapped to your head, Robert Cowan, MD, director of the Stanford Headache Clinic, will tell you that managing headache disorders goes beyond finding the right remedy and involves determining a proper diagnosis and developing a comprehensive treatment plan. And he should know: Cowan has suffered migraines his whole life. He understands that the condition can "become a footnote, or it can ruin your life."

At the Stanford clinic, Cowan and colleagues offer a treatment approach that focuses on prevention and integrates medical, physical, psychological and complementary medicine. A nationally renowned leader in headache care, Cowan also serves as chair of the refractory headache section and in-office education section for the American Headache Society, and he is president of the Headache Cooperative of the Pacific.

We've asked Cowan to respond to your questions about headache disorders, recent improvements in managing them, and the use of a multifaceted approach to treating symptoms. Questions can be submitted to Cowan by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting your question in the comments section below. We’ll collect questions until Friday (March 8) at 5 PM Pacific Time.

When submitting questions, please abide by the following ground rules:

  • Stay on topic
  • Be respectful to the person answering your questions
  • Be respectful to one another in submitting questions
  • Do not monopolize the conversation or post the same question repeatedly
  • Kindly ignore disrespectful or off topic comments
  • Know that Twitter handles and/or names may be used in the responses

Cowan will respond to a selection of the questions submitted, but not all of them, in a future entry on Scope.

Finally – and you may have already guessed this – an answer to any question submitted as part of this feature is meant to offer medical information, not medical advice. These answers are not a basis for any action or inaction, and they’re also not meant to replace the evaluation and determination of your doctor, who will address your specific medical needs and can make a diagnosis and give you the appropriate care.

Previously: Managing headache disorders during the holidays and New Stanford headache clinic taking an interdisciplinary approach to brain pain
Photo by Diamond Farah

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