[Book Review] Heal Your Headache, Buchholz

Although Heal Your Headache by David Buchholz, M.D., has a target audience of headache sufferers, I think it should be read by treaters of headaches – doctors – as well. Although many of the aspects of the book can be proactively applied by anyone that suffers headaches on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, the information in this book could cut down on patient misdiagnoses and other preventable situations. If only I’d known about this book sooner…

Rating: ★★★★★ [5/5]

It took Doctor-Number-Eight/Neurologist-Number-Two to recommend it to me.

The other seven doctors before him followed similar patterns to what were presented in the book, but their effectiveness ranged from useless to harmful, whereas if this book were read more often in medical literature or a more formal text were translated for doctors to feel more prestigious, then my three months of headaches could have been cut down to even two.

That was three months of my life in a degraded state.

I bring myself into this review as I do because Buchholz holds similar opinions toward other doctors. Early on into the book, he presents an example of where he was going to give a lecture but was debating whether or not to include a slide about empathizing with patients, until he talked to a doctor. I’ll save the punchline for the book, but he chooses not to call patients “pain weasels” and instead dedicates this whole book to helping headache sufferers.

His 1-2-3 Program is the cornerstone of the book.

Briefly summarized, that is first removing any medications that could be causing symptoms to worsen, second reducing aspects of our lives that could cause potential triggers, and third increasing our threshold tolerance toward our symptoms and triggers. The value in this strategy is how adaptable it is, and the value of this book is how approachable it is for the layperson. The reader need not have medical experience to understand and work their way through the book.

Which is why I think we need a more complicated book for doctors.

Although Buchholz is a neurologist, this might be seen as too patient-oriented of a book, and for patients, they might not have the patience to read a book, even if it were to help with their symptoms. Why would they? In the height of a headache, they just need to know what to change, and by that point, that change could be anything. The level of desperation of a headache sufferer could lead them to try anything to reduce their headaches.

If doctors treated headaches like burns or cuts, we’d be better off overall.

Instead, as Buchholz says, medical literature is too rigid in its traditional definition of headaches. Throughout my three-month headache, with some moments of respite, I only had the most traditional kaleidoscopic aura of a headache one notable time, otherwise, they were disparate and caused me desperation as I could not think clearly enough to fix them. It wasn’t for lack of trying on my part, either.

I just had a string of bad luck with unempathetic doctors.

Imagine going into the doctor’s office with a burn and having them treat you poorly because they didn’t understand or believe in burns. They might scoff at the idea of giving you medicine to treat any infections. They might overmedicate you in other regards – if you’re going in feeling anxious over the burn, they’d give you anti-anxiety medications rather than treating the burn. That’s how it felt for me, and Buchholz presents myriad stories where his patients had been misdiagnosed and mistreated for many bizarre and outlandish headache causes.

All of his stories were easy success stories.

They may not be all of them, but even just knowing that he was able to treat as many patients as he did is reassuring and professional, but that the book is targeted for patients rather than doctors might be its only flaw. The neurologist that recommended this book to me hadn’t read it himself, and although I trust his doctoral abilities much more than my first neurologist, that still speaks to the notion that there might be more doctors out there that could have more fundamental knowledge about headaches.

Having read this book and experienced headaches, I know more about headaches than some doctors…

Buchholz concludes the book by wondering why we have headaches in general. Perhaps they were a safeguard against threats? Maybe they, like seizures, helped to moderate our exposure to danger? Maybe they weren’t evolutionarily weeded out like other undesirable traits? There is still much to learn and research about headaches, but Buchholz continues by theorizing that it starts with changing our expectations for what headaches are, first, because if they’re defined by arbitrary rules, then we’ll ignore anything other than the most straightforward definition.

Why are headaches so hard to diagnose, treat, and resolve?

Headaches might be difficult to treat because of how subjective they are, unlike burns or cuts that are objectively visible and treatable. You can’t apply a topical medicine to a headache and see the results. You can guess with commonly prescribed medicines, featured in the book, to see what might work for each patient. Some patients don’t respond well to certain medications that work well for others. It’s probably all a gamble, and Buchholz talks about how some precautions are taken unnecessarily to prevent lawsuits for malpractices, which is unfortunate, because at least with his patient examples, many of them were malpracticed on due to misinformation or lacking information.

I’d recommend this book for most anyone.

Even if you don’t experience headaches, if you’re concerned about your health, there are myriad tips for learning to manage your lifestyle in this book. If you have any health problems, especially, you can still follow the 1-2-3 Program to achieve a lifestyle with your symptoms under control. Unless your doctor or neurologist advises differently, Buchholz’s book on headaches is a good place to start for headache relief.

Even if you’re advised differently, Heal Your Headache is still a worthwhile reference point.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal, professional, and reading experiences.
Inspirations: My attempt at summarizing this book well enough.
Related: Other Sober Living essays and Tripping On [The American Healthcare System] chapters.
Photo: My book with all my healthcare paperwork.
Written On: 2020 February 17 [12:37am to “The neurologist that recommended this book to me” to 12:52am, then from 1am to “concerned about your health, there are” at 1:19am then from 1:36am to 1:39am. Gdocs.]
Last Edited: 2020 March 04 [Adapted from Gdoc, so, second draft; final draft for the Internet.]

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.