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Collaborative Effort Allows 3 Experts to Help 1 Patient Fight Migraine

September 07, 2022

A Bristol teacher discovered there is more than one way to learn about her head pain after connecting with a pair of Hartford HealthCare specialists.

Thirty-year-old Claire Consonni 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 special education preschool where she worked, and was also referred to Ayer’s Sports Neurology Center.

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“I had had previous head injuries, both from playing basketball and at work, and thought the headaches might be due to a concussion,” Consonni explained.

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

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

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

Added insight came through a thorough assessment of her head injury and headache history, information that helped Dr. Alessi-LaRosa categorize injuries as concussion versus trauma-induced migraine. The latter, severe headaches caused by a blow to the head, share symptoms with concussion.

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

When Consonni suffered a second injury at her former job during treatment, she diagnosed it as a trauma-induced migraine with pain and strain to the neck. Anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy helped, Dr. Alessi-LaRosa said.

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

The collaboration between headache and sports neurology experts is one of the benefits of Hartford HealthCare’s institute approach to care that draws together clinicians in various subspecialties to consult on patient cases. While Consonni’s trauma-related head pain was addressed, she still sees Dr. Verhaak at the Headache Center.

There, she’s benefitted from a combination of medications – one given by infusion every three months and the other taken daily – and a headache device she wears for 20 minutes each night. Diagnosed with chronic daily migraine, Consonni said her pain is “much more manageable,” with many headache free days.

Headache Center