Highlights of the AHS 2016 Conference

I attended the annual American Headache Society conference in San Diego June 9-12. This was my second year to have the chance to hear the latest research findings in the world of headache medicine. The conference is geared towards researchers, clinicians and practicing doctors. It brings out the brightest and greatest minds in the field.

With an alarming shortage of headache specialists, about 1 specialist per 80,000 migraine patients, the gathering of these doctors not only highlights outcomes of years of studies, but allows for brainstorming and future collaboration between practioners.

Some of the attendees, presenters and award recipients, I have met previously during the last conference or because they have been part of my personal medical team. When my head allowed, I listened to lectures given by doctors who have worked in headache medicine 30-40 years, I saw the newest residents and fellows present results of their first clinical trials, and I had access to pick the brains of those who compassionately take care of our community in a multitude of ways.

In the coming weeks, several members of the Migraine.com team will report on specific studies or topics that were meaningful to them. Until then, I want to summarize the ideas, statistics, facts and inspiration I gained from attending this conference.

Statistics & observations

  • Rapid urbanization is associated with the recent rise in migraine prevalence. (Dr. Fei Xue)
  • The prevalence of migraine in rural areas is less common than in urban areas. (Dr. Fei Xue)
  • Tiredness and stiff neck are the most common symptoms of prodrome. (Dr. Peter Goadsby)
  • Primary Care Physician average appointments with patients between “7-20 minutes". (Dr. Rob Cowan)
  • The bed is for sleep and sex. No phones, no computer, no books. It trains the brain to know that room is for sleep. After 30 minutes of tossing and turning, get out of bed. (Dr. Elizabeth Seng)
  • Send articles to people in your life that “don’t get it.” Take the time to educate them.
  • Doctors should give you the drugs that would be used in the ER… so you can avoid the ER. (Dr. Goadsby)
  • A day lived with migraine is as disabling as a day lived with dementia and quadriplegia. (Dr. Lawrence C. Newman)

Quotable quotes

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” Jon Kabat Zinn (Dawn Buse’s presentation).

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” Dawn Buse

“You have a migraine, don’t you? I can see it in your eyes.” Dr. Silberstein to me during a break.

“Wait now, nothing this bad can last.” Anna Eidt, Migraine.com writer and winner of the AMF video contest.

“It controls me like I’m a puppet.” (Rob, patient)

“For chronic migraineurs, isn’t improving the quality of life with this disability more important than breaking an unbreakable cycle?” Dr. Goadsby

“There is no more exciting place to be than in Headache Medicine. The train is leaving and you better get on it.” Dr. Goadsby’s advice to residents choosing a sub-specialty.

“We will be SEEN and we will be HEARD.” Dr. Amaal Starling

“Remember it takes time for prevention to work.” Dr. Richard Lipton

Exciting studies & discussions- indlude CGRP

CGRP- There are four pharmaceutical companies currently in Phase III trials of an anti-CGRP drug. This new class of drug shows extreme promise in being used as the first preventative medication developed specifically for migraine patients. While still 2-5 years away from being on the market, studies are showing great results in the reduction of migraine attacks.

Social Media used to collect data on Sensory Experiences- Researchers used several social media sites to gather data from patients who self-report certain sensory experiences such as smell, touch, noise and light sensitivities that are less likely to be discussed with their doctor.

Neurostimulators- Several external stimulators are gaining traction in use of preventing and aborting migraine attacks. Studies revealed that relief has been found in use of the Cefaly, the Spring TMS and a Vagal Nerve stimulator.

When Mom has Migraine, What it is the Family to Do?- 17% of the US has episodic migraines, while 1.29% have chronic migraines. This can cause parent/ child role reversal, parents feeling guilty and an family arguments are more prevalent when a parent suffers from migraine. Plan ahead, have back-up plans, use delivery services, have quiet time activities planned for kids during an attack, join online support groups and seek family counseling.

American Migraine Foundation Video Contest- For the first year, the American Migraine Foundation (the fundraising arm of the American Headache Society) held a 5-minute video contest for patients to visually depict their migraine experience. Migraine.com writer, Anna Eidt, won with her amazing video entitled, “This Day.” It shows one day in her life along with a self-written and performed song asking the questions of how she will handle the day. It’s incredibly moving. https://migrainebrainstorm.com/2016/06/09/this-day-a-migraine-awareness-video/

American Headache and Migraine Association (AHMA)- On Sunday of the conference, AHMA, the patient centered arm of AHS, holds an all-day session for families and patients. Doctors present the newest advances in headache medicine while having conversation with patients who have questions about how it will affect their life. A break-out session is also provided for caregivers and spouses. This is my favorite part of the conference because I get to interact and meet fellow patients that I know online.


I listed only a small portion of the findings and discussions had during the 58th Annual AHS Conference. More detailed information on the topics patients will be most interested in will be covered in the coming weeks. It was an honor to attend and I can’t wait to share even more with you.

Post edited on July 13, 2016: Average appointment time of 7-20 minutes pertains to visit with a Primary Care Physician

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