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Headaches & The Economy

By Suzanne E. Simons
Executive Director of the National Headache Foundation

In a recent online survey, we queried Web site visitors regarding how the economic downturn is affecting them and how they manage their headaches. Not surprisingly, the study reveals headache sufferers make significant changes in headache treatment and prevention methods during a financial crisis. The survey revealed that 82% of respondents claim to have made financial cut-backs due to the current economic situation. For example, more than half (62%) of respondents reported making dietary changes in response to the rising costs of food. Additionally, stress, lack of sleep and anxiety were cited as the top three headache triggers. All of these conditions were also reported as occurring as a result of the economic strain on the participants’ lifestyles. When asked about treatment methods, we found that 63% rely on prescribed medications for their headache. However, the economic toll has caused 29% of the respondents to either delay or skip filling prescriptions for their headache medications. More than half answered that they switched to over-the-counter (OTC) medication instead of using their prescription medication to treat their headaches in an effort to save money. Substituting OTCs may be ineffective for treating migraine, causing undue pain and suffering. Other survey results demonstrated that 43% of respondents said they have made changes in spending on healthcare purchases such as services or medications. Another 48% reported “concern or uncertainty about the future” as a headache trigger. An even 50% of respondents attributed dietary changes as having an effect on their headaches. So what can you do to weather this economic storm? Here are a few tips:

  • If you are unable to afford your medication, many pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs. Talk to your doctor or visit the NHF Web site ( and click on Headache Education-Tools for Sufferers for a list of available programs.
  • Talk to your doctor about your financial situation; there may be a generic form of your prescription available.
  • Be aware of your individual food triggers. When making grocery choices, try to maintain a healthy diet and consider purchasing store brand items rather than name brand products.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as guided imagery or visualization.
  • Include exercise in your daily routine, even a brisk walk can help to reduce stress.

Lastly, remember that the financial turmoil we are currently experiencing is temporary. While it may take some time to turn around, the situation will get better and keeping a positive outlook may help to lessen the emotional and physical impact of these volatile economic times.

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