Collaborative Effort Enables Three Experts to Help Patient Fight Migraine

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A Bristol teacher discovered there was more than one way to find out about her head pain after contacting two specialists from Hartford HealthCare.

Claire Consonni, 30, sought help for painful daily migraines at the Headache Center, part of the system’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute. While being treated there, she suffered a head injury at the specialist nursery school where she worked and was also referred to Ayer’s sports neurology centre.

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“I had had head injuries before, both playing basketball and at work, and I thought the headaches might have been from a concussion,” Consonni explained.

Between headache specialist Renee Kane, APRN, clinical psychologist Allison Verhaak, PhD, and sports neurologist Stephanie Alessi-LaRosa, MD, Consonni scoured her complex medical history to find ways to treat headaches and to manage his pain.

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Part of the problem, she said, was the stress she faced at work, which will be resolved when she starts working as a high school English teacher this fall.

“I was under a lot of stress and extremely tired. I was taking naps at work,” she said. “Dr. Alessi-LaRosa gave me some helpful ideas for creating a sleep schedule and staying hydrated.

A thorough evaluation of his history of head injuries and headaches provided insight, information that helped Dr. Alessi-LaRosa categorize the injuries as concussion versus trauma-induced migraine. The latter, severe headaches caused by a blow to the head, share symptoms with a concussion.

“She’s a very active person, and initially the plan was to maximize her sleep, manage her stress, and stay hydrated,” Dr. Alessi-LaRosa noted.

When Consonni suffered a second injury at her old job during treatment, she diagnosed it as a trauma-induced migraine with neck pain and tension. Anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy have helped, Dr. Alessi-LaRosa said.

“It helps to properly diagnose these things. She had fewer concussions than she thought,” the doctor said.

Collaboration between headache and sports neurology experts is one of the benefits of the Hartford HealthCare Institute approach to care which brings together clinicians from various subspecialties to consult on patient cases. While Consonni’s trauma-related head pain has been treated, she still sees Dr. Verhaak at the Headache Center.

There she benefited from a combination of medication – one given by drip every three months and the other taken daily – and a headache device which she wears for 20 minutes each night. Diagnosed with a chronic daily migraine, Consonni said her pain was “much more manageable”, with many headache-free days.


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