Healthy Manhattan: Stick It to the Pain

Written by Paulette Safdieh on . Posted in Healthy Manhattan, Posts.

"Many people who come to me say they never experienced migraines before moving to New York," said Dr. Alexander Mauskop, director of the New York Headache Center. Mauskop, a board-certified neurologist (American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology) and licensed acupuncturist specializing in headache medicine, has been treating New Yorkers suffering from headaches for over 20 years.

According to Mauskop, his extensive and steadily increasing clientele is due mainly to the tense, fast-paced way of life in the big city. Although philosophies may have shifted and new treatment options have surfaced over the years, for many of the 36 million Americans desperate for help, acupuncture remains a preferred method of assuaging headache pain.

"It’s not a cure, but it’s safe and natural," Mauskop said about his preference for acupuncture over other forms of treatment. "Drugs and medications have too many side effects. Taking them shouldn’t be a daily thing."

Often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound, migraines are debilitating and may interfere with one’s normal, daily activities and work responsibilities. Acupuncture is aimed at reducing frequency and maintaining relief from varying types of migraines, whether constant, sporadic, menstrual-related or stress-induced.

This common but deep form of headache pain can be inherited genetically or triggered by an individual’s diet, job or even where he or she lives. The insertion of the thin, disposable needles to the body during acupuncture sessions helps release neurotransmitters in the brain, lessening the migraine intensity and improving the person’s quality of life. Despite acupuncture’s ancient Chinese origins and popularity over time, many conventional doctors still approach holistic medicine with doubt, turning to drugs as a first option.

Doctors commonly help patients through other forms of treatments as well, including drugs, nutritional supplements like magnesium and omega-3 or nerve blocks like lidocaine and steroids.

Mauskop has been praised as a progressive in his field, spearheading the use of Botox for pain relief 15 years ago and training young doctors in this method countrywide. He is also the author of two books: The Headache Alternative: A Neurologist’s Guide to Drug-Free Relief and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines: The Breakthrough Program That Can Help End Your Pain. While always open to these new ideas, Mauskop believes strongly in the interworking of traditional and alternative therapies for ultimate relief.

"People say it’s not proven, when in fact, it’s more proven than the over-thecounter and prescription pills they use," Mauskop explained. When asked about acupuncture skeptics, he pointed out that two out of three patients achieve relief.

Research has found similar responses in animals as well. "We have pictures of dogs jumping on the acupuncture table; they can’t wait to get their next treatment," Mauskop said. "It fixes their joints and helps them walk better."

Nonetheless, Mauskop does question the use of acupuncture for other ailments, like infertility, for which the effects of acupuncture are far less proven than for headaches and physical pain.

Standard treatment for migraines consists of weekly appointments for 10 to 12 weeks. Each one-hour visit costs $150. Although the price tag is better than the $1,500 it costs for a Botox session, acupuncture may appear timeconsuming for the average working New Yorker. Also, the success rate is slightly lagging behind the 70 percent reported success rate of Botox.

To receive the ultimate benefits, acupuncture needs to be a continuous regimen, similar to the way a single massage won’t solve someone’s lifelong back problems. "When you stop doing it, the effects last for a couple of months before you need to start up again," Mauskop explained.

Additionally, nutritional supplements are best used as complements to the acupuncture treatments, since they are not as powerful on their own.

"There are so many scientific studies backing the benefits of acupuncture," Mauskop said. "Most people feel very relaxed, they look forward to it."

To learn more about Dr. Mauskop’s philosophy and how acupuncture can provide a much-needed relief for headache problems, visit the New York Headache Center’s website

Offices are located on Upper East Side and in Westchester.