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Tampa Veterans Hospital Honored for Headache Program

Headache Program | James Haley VA Hospital | Medicine

The hospital will receive more than $1 million in funding to go with the designation as a Headache Center of Excellence.

TAMPA – The James. A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital has been designated a Headache Center of Excellence by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a move that includes funding in excess of $1 million.

JAHVH is one of seven facilities throughout the Veterans Health Administration to receive the designation. The centers were authorized by Congress earlier this year.

According to Dr. Georgia Kane, a neurologist and head of the Chronic Headache Management Program, the designation was earned in large part because of the hospital’s Polytrauma program.

“We’re very lucky because we probably wouldn’t have it if we didn’t have this awesome Polytrauma Center,” Kane said. “It means we can offer so much more to our patients. Everybody’s highly excited.”

According to the designation letter signed by then-Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Maintenance Steve Young, “Veterans with a history of polytrauma or traumatic brain injury commonly experience headaches. Headache management for Veterans with TBI and multiple co-morbid conditions is challenging and is best managed by an interdisciplinary team.”

That’s precisely what CHAMP has been doing for several years.

“We, about four years ago, started an interdisciplinary team,” Kane said of the five-week outpatient program. “We noticed that with people with headaches, it’s difficult to treat just the headache, so occupational therapy, psychology and me, we all work together and we meet weekly on patients to maximize their care.”

Program participants are required to keep a diary, noting the time a headache starts, what they were doing, what they were eating and other aspects of their lives that can be critical to understanding what might be triggering the headaches.

“The number one thing is education. Once you know more about what is affecting your situation, we can then teach options that are other than medications,” Kane said. “Medication will do a certain percentage, but if you only relied on medications to help your situation, then you would be discounting the fact that you’re not sleeping well, or to distract yourself with relaxation techniques or biofeedback that we do to try and get your mind to think of something else.”

CHAMP participants meet once a week for lectures and other forms of treatment that includes adjustments by a chiropractor, recreation therapy, Botox injections and precise injections in the neck if needed. Botox is used to relax muscles that, when tensed can cause headaches. The treatment is very effective, Kane said.

About 60 people are in CHAMP at any given time. While many of the TBI patients with headaches tend to be younger, chronic headaches are non-discriminatory, affecting men and women, young and old, and the additional funding that comes with the Center of Excellence designation will allow the CHAMP staff to add additional treatment venues for them.

They hope to work with the lighting in the treatment areas since lighting can affect headache sufferers, equipment for neck injections, electrical stimulators and virtual reality equipment are a few of the items Kane said she hopes to procure for the program.

“Becoming a Headache Center of Excellence means that we can expand and do more, to be able to offer more things – more physical therapies, recreational therapies, art therapies,” Kane said. “When we were presented with this, it was one of those truly amazing moments. Things are going to be real good.”

Photo shows James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital chiropractor Dr. Kerry Sarnowski as he performs an adjustment on headache patient Shelly Woodhouse as part of the Chronic Headache Management Program. Courtesy of James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

Health Care | Medicine | Veterans | Veterans Health Care | Tampabay News

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