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Head Start: Inside the New Headache Center at UC San Diego Health

The new Headache Center at UC San Diego Health provides comprehensive relief for migraines and other chronic headache conditions
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Dr. Nina Riggins

For the 60 million Americans living with chronic migraines and other headache disorders, pain relief can’t come soon enough. Recognizing the need for multidisciplinary care to treat these conditions, UC San Diego Health recently opened a new Headache Center, offering a wide variety of treatment options for patients dealing with debilitating disease.

Here, Nina Riggins, MD, PhD, neurologist and headache specialist at UC San Diego Health and director of the new center, shares how the innovative health system’s new offerings will transform care for San Diegans seeking specialized care.

Q: Why was there a need to open a specialized headache center in San Diego?

A: Headaches affect a billion people around the world; 60 million people are affected by migraines and other headache disorders in United States. As much as 10 percent of primary care visits have a headache-related chief complaint. While migraines are more prevalent in women, men more often experience headache disorders like cluster headaches, and 1 in 11 kids have a migraine. The need is clearly there, and it’s important to have a headache center that can offer specialized care.

In partnership with primary care, women’s health, interventional radiology, neurosurgery, spine and pain specialists, and others, we treat individuals who are dealing with serious, debilitating headache diseases, with a targeted therapeutic approach.

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Headache&TraumaticBrainInjury-4910 Directors Place Suite 250-20220616-DSC06125.jpg

What is a headache disorder?

There is an international classification of headache disorders, which is an excellent reference for a variety of diagnostic criteria. Headache disorders are divided into primary and secondary. Migraine, for example, is a primary headache disorder. It’s a genetic neurological disease. People living with migraines can have multiple triggers of migraine attacks . Secondary headaches are attributed to other disorders, like a brain tumor or stroke. This is why the Headache Center at UC San Diego is so strong – because we work together with our neurosurgeons, stroke specialists, pain center specialists, radiologists and many others to treat medical needs and address the primary and secondary headache. We provide patient-centered care. The collaboration with all services and departments, all in one, is so much better for our patients.

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Headache&TraumaticBrainInjury-4910 Directors Place Suite 250-20220616-DSC06148.jpg

What makes the Headache Center at UC San Diego Health so unique?

I am very excited about the center. It’s a beautiful space in Sorrento Valley, where everything is designed for the patients, starting with the color of the walls, which is friendly for people who live with headache disorders. We have green light in the rooms, which has been shown to potentially decrease symptoms of headache disorders. And we have therapeutic interventions tailored to patients’ individual needs.

Patients will have access to both inpatient and outpatient treatment options, neuromodulation devices, nerve blocks, trigger point injections, Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks, Botox, otoneurology, infusion, integrative medicine such as acupuncture, and other interventions.

We also conduct research and provide training for medical students, residents who can then carry forward what they learn and spread knowledge to help people living with headache disorders. The center truly is a one-stop shop, combining education, research, and clinical care to be as helpful and effective as possible at breaking the cycle of chronic pain for our patients.

For more information about the Headache Center at UC San Diego Health, visit Talk to your doctor about your headache disorder to determine if you require the care of a specialist.

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