James. A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH) in Tampa, Florida, has been designated a Headache Center of Excellence (CoE) by VA. JAHVH is one of two facilities throughout the Veterans Health Administration to receive the designation.

“We’re very lucky because we probably wouldn’t have it if we didn’t have this awesome Polytrauma Center,” Dr. Georgia Kane said.  “It means we can offer so much more to our patients.  Everybody’s highly excited.”

Kane, a neurologist and head of the Chronic Headache Management Program (CHAMP), said the designation was due in large part because of the hospital’s Polytrauma program.

Veterans with a history of polytrauma or traumatic brain injury commonly experience headaches.  Headache management for Veterans with TBI and multiple co-morbid conditions is challenging and is best managed by an interdisciplinary team. That’s precisely what CHAMP has been doing for several years.

“We started an interdisciplinary team about four years ago,” Kane said of the five-week outpatient program.  “We noticed that with people with headaches, it’s difficult to treat just the headache, so occupational therapy, psychology and me, we all work together and we meet weekly on patients to maximize their care.”

Program participants are required to keep a diary, noting the time a headache starts, what they were doing, what they were eating and other aspects of their lives that can be critical to understanding what might be triggering the headaches.

Options other than medications

“The number one thing is education.  Once you know more about what is affecting your situation, we can then teach options that are other than medications,” Kane said.  “Medication will do a certain percentage, but if you only relied on medications to help your situation, then you would be discounting the fact that you’re not sleeping well, or to distract yourself with relaxation techniques or biofeedback that we do to try and get your mind to think of something else.”

CHAMP participants meet once a week for lectures and other forms of treatment that includes recreation therapy, Botox injections and precise injections in the neck if needed.  Botox is used to relax muscles that, when tensed, can cause headaches.  The treatment is very effective, Kane said.

About 60 people are in CHAMP at any given time, including those patients who are followed after discharge.

While many of the TBI patients with headaches tend to be younger, chronic headaches are non-discriminatory, affecting men and women, young and old, and the additional funding that comes with the Center of Excellence designation will allow the CHAMP staff to add additional treatments for them.

They hope to work with the lighting in the treatment areas since lighting can affect headache sufferers. Equipment for neck injections, electrical stimulators, and virtual reality equipment are a few of the items Kane said she hopes to procure for the program. Headache treatment is offered to all Veteran patients at all VA medical centers. Patients can get referred to any Center of Excellence but because not all centers offer the same thing Veterans should confirm with their VA health care team and the Center of Excellence that they will receive the specific treatment they need.

Patients should keep in mind that this is an outpatient program. Patients come once a week for five consecutive weeks – plus the follow-up after they complete the treatment – which is not always easy if referred from a distance.

“Becoming a Headache Center of Excellence means that we can expand and do more, to be able to offer more things, more physical therapies, recreational therapies, art therapies,” Kane said.  “When we were presented with this, it was one of those truly amazing moments.”

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17 Comments

  1. Ed Drohan October 1, 2018 at 8:07 am

    The five Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (Tampa, Richmond, San Antonio, Palo Alto and Minneapolis), The Polytrauma Network Site at Louis Stokes Cleveland VAMC, and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System are designated Headache Centers of Excellence.

    • Katrina Buswell October 1, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your reply! I just wish they had something on the West Coast. I appreciate your quick response immensely.

  2. Katrina Buswell September 30, 2018 at 2:18 am

    Is anyone going to respond to the numerous requests for the other 6 locations?!? It is already hard enough to get the care so many of us desperately need without having to spend even more time playing detective to find out where the services are actually offered. I’ve been entertaining a migraine for the past week and have been to urgent care twice, only to receive injections and be sent home. Ironically, I had to see a civilian doctor at an urgent care clinic to finally get a referral to Neurology with the VA. Riddle me that….

  3. James Matney September 29, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    How can I get this treatment at the V.A. Hosp out potion in Mobile Al. and thr Hosp. in Miss.

  4. BJ Haugen September 29, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Hey guys check this website for the Polytrauma centers and to see more detailed information.

  5. BJ Haugen September 29, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Hey guys….check this website for the Polytrauma and this centers if excellence …….Polytrauma.va.gov…

  6. James Baca September 27, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    How do we get ahold of one of these Drs or get referred to something like this? I go to the Augusta VA, and it is by far the epitome of everything that can and will go wrong with a government program. It took over a year just to see a neurologist, and then it has been about 2 years to get another appointment. I have severe migraines every day and constantly pass out or black out, I constantly lose feeling in my limbs, and I’m not getting the help I need. I need something like this.

  7. Diane Bekel September 26, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    18 years w/chronic headaches from TBI. Referred to Iowa City Hospitals & Clinics by the Iowa City VA for treatment. Doc asked questions, then gave me a bag with a bunch of medicine in it. Was told to try them all and figure out which ones worked. Tried a couple, nothing made a difference. Threw bag away and didn’t go back. I just try to manage it myself. It would be wonderful if this treatment was available in the Midwest.

  8. Meg Motter, LCSW-C September 26, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Same question–Where are the other six locations?

  9. Megha September 26, 2018 at 5:43 am

    Great work Ed Drohan.

  10. De Andree Nekoranec September 25, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Where are the six other locations? I see Tampa but didn’t see the other locations.

  11. Samuel James Mullins September 25, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    I have TBI due to injuries in Vietnam in 1966. Doctors and the VA do not have any help in this area. I have headaches during all periods of the day and night but I sleep OK. I also take naps during the day. They help.

  12. Michael Paul letourneau September 25, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Article Mentions “Seven-Hospitals” it only focuses on one. Where are the other six-6 ? Can’t navigate to find others from this page..no links or highlighted items. Why not make it easy to find the other 6 hospital and there locations?

    While treatment for headaches is available at all VA medical centers, seven hospitals are specifically working to help polytrauma and TBI Veterans.

    • Ed Drohan October 1, 2018 at 8:05 am

      The five Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (Tampa, Richmond, San Antonio, Palo Alto and Minneapolis), The Polytrauma Network Site at Louis Stokes Cleveland VAMC, and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System are designated Headache Centers of Excellence.

  13. GINGER Creese September 25, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Could you please explain the procedure of the shots in a little more detail please. I am a 60 year old female Veteran who suffers from headaches and neck pain. I’m scared to death to have shots or the nerves burned. I don’t understand the procedure.

    Thank you so much.

  14. Agustin Gonzalez-Ruiz September 25, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Had to stop working in 2013 cause of some headaches and dizzines witch led me to discover other chronic problems which led to apply for dissability which was aproved two years later, mean while I have been treated at local VA clinic. My headaches are not as often as before but I still get them and they keep going for about a week. I started to see a neurologist with help from VA but it stop cause problems with payments by VA Choice Program, all I got from him was meds. VA assigned a neurologist at my request, after waiting about three months for the appointment, I was about 10 minutes late cause distances and not familier with the Road trip it was cancel for another month. The neurologist saw me ask me some questions and said there was not any notes from prior doctor and the meds I was taking were correct and did not order any studies or follow up. The headaches continúe and still taking the meds. I am currently living in Wilmington NC.

    • Penni Chesmore September 27, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      Please please tell me where I can get help for this I suffer frim migraines 4-5 times monthly and have daily headaches. (redacted) are the last of my ssn
      My phone is (redacted)
      Penni Chesmore

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