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Uncovering the Source of Headache Pain

January 28, 2014
The physicians of GBMC’s Center for Neurology: James Bernheimer, MD; Michael Sellman, MD; Arash Taavoni, DO
Christine Kolodziejski, 77, has an admittedly high pain tolerance. A sufferer of arthritis, she expects a certain amount of pain from day to day. But when pain in her neck started causing progressively worse, excruciating headaches, Mrs. Kolodziejski decided to reach out for help. “It eventually became unbearable — the headaches were so bad that I had trouble seeing,” she says. “I tried calling several neurologists, but the waits were far too long.” She looked to her primary care doctor for advice and learned about GBMC’s Center for Neurology, led by Michael Sellman, MD. “Dr. Sellman had just relocated his practice to GBMC, but made time to see me. He immediately acknowledged how bad my pain was, gave me an injection for instant, but temporary, relief and I was able to carry on with my appointment pain-free.”

According to Dr. Sellman, “when people suffer from headaches, like those Mrs. Kolodziejski was experiencing, we start by doing some detective work to find the root of the problem. In her case, the pain was a result of a pinched nerve in the neck.” He emphasizes the importance of taking a holistic approach when caring for headaches, looking at the whole body, both physiologically and psychologically. “Taking care of headaches requires comprehensive examination to rule out issues such as uncontrolled blood pressure, sleep apnea, kidney disease and lung diseases that may be related,” he states. In some cases, the headaches are migraines, which are very common in women and can be triggered by a variety of factors. Treatment options include prescription medication and lifestyle changes, including altering diet, reducing stress and increasing exercise. Botox injections can also help, and are available through the Center. “It’s easy to jump to a worst-case scenario such as assuming headaches are caused by a brain tumor, but that is generally rare. Evaluation can help get to the root of the problem and open a door to many treatment options.”

Although the injection Dr. Sellman offered Mrs. Kolodziejski was a temporary fix to her problem, he referred her to Greater Baltimore Neurosurgical Associates (GBNA) to consider surgery as a more permanent solution. His kind demeanor made an impact on her. “I was so impressed with the consideration and compassion of Dr. Sellman and the politeness of his office staff in general,” says Mrs. Kolodziejski. “Thanks to him, I’m now on the path to enjoying my typical lifestyle.”

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