Being a mom during a pandemic, and living with chronic headaches on top of all that, can seem impossible.

From my own experiences living with chronic pain, I know the unique challenges it can bring. Finding appropriate medical care, carving out time for self-care and managing everyday life are just the beginning.

Challenges for patients

The first theme in my experience has been a high lack of coordinated care. I tried to work with my primary care doctor to manage my chronic pain, and she unfortunately lacked the training to provide value in navigating a complicated chronic care journey. Primary care physicians don’t always have the specific training required for managing conditions such as chronic pain and migraine. That leaves a lot of the burden on me as the patient to have to quarterback my own health care. I’ve had a long and difficult journey, and the first frustration point was not having someone else act as quarterback.

Over time, I built my own Google sheet, where I was trying to keep a pain diary and see any potential correlations between the pain level and my lifestyle variables such as diet, hydration, stress, and more. I spent so much time recording that data; the hardest part was not knowing if it would add value to my care plan. I was shocked when I took the pain diary to my doctor and they had no idea how to leverage the data. Instead, they went back to the usual question, asking if I wanted an injection or surgery.

However, I was fortunate that I had a background working in health care technology. In addition to building consumer products, I led the creation of a product built to support working women through their paths to parenthood. I developed an understanding of the need for empathy, compassion and high-touch support for the patient journey. My experiences have inspired me to work on technology to manage chronic headaches.

Thanks to my career experiences in health tech and my personal life as a busy professional living with chronic pain, I have found many coping mechanisms and skills. While everyone is different and needs various levels of support and self-care, here are a few tips I have found helpful as someone living with chronic pain.

Tip #1: Be thoughtful in finding your best care

One of the most important tips I can give is to be very thoughtful when looking for a provider. You want someone  who deeply understands your condition. You definitely want to spend time on this task; if you go to a provider who’s not narrow enough in their special focus, you may end up receiving treatment that makes you feel worse. Some ways to find the right provider include looking at online patient reviews, objective data and health grades. Such data can help you focus on outcomes, such as an overall decrease in headache frequency for their population, rather than subjective feelings of patients.

Something else to consider when finding care is a relatively new concept in health care. Concierge care is where you typically pay an additional fee to basically have a doctor in your pocket–someone you can text anytime. Concierge care is wonderful for busy moms, particularly those managing migraines or other comorbidities, because you can text the provider and will receive a quick response. With all that’s going on, you spend less time waiting for answers and more time with your family. Another option is a care coach, someone who is dedicated to helping patients  manage chronic conditions, focused on areas such as diet, stress management, and emotional support.

Tip #2: Take advantage of telehealth

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the consumer and provider adoption of telehealth. There’s been increasing comfort on both sides to use virtual visits–something that has many benefits for people living with chronic pain and migraines, given their sensitivity to light and noise and the shortage of headache specialists. The pandemic also led to a shift in health care insurance–companies and payers have started to cover telehealth at the same reimbursement fee as traditional in-person visits, and this isn’t changing as the demand has grown from both providers and patients.

Tip #3: Focus on stress relief and prioritize self-care

I know the special considerations for professionals living with migraines and chronic pain. You can’t always take away the stress, but you can work on your response. Self-care is so important for dealing with the stresses of being a working mom–whether you find it through daily walks, loving on a pet, meditation, baths, small breaks or whatever works for you. 

Since the migraine brain doesn’t like changes, try to keep a schedule as much as possible. Remember to also pay attention to your hydration levels, posture and daily neck care.

From one busy woman to another, the best piece of advice I can give is to remember that you matter. Through all the stresses and busyness of the day, remember to take time to care for yourself and it will help you care for others.
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  • Elizabeth Burstein

    CEO and Co-Founder of Neura Health

    Liz Burstein is CEO and Co-Founder of Neura Health. She founded Neura Health based on her personal journey with chronic pain, which exposed her to the key challenges of specialist access and care quality that patients face when navigating chronic neurological conditions. Previously Liz led product development teams at digital health companies Maven Clinic and Zocdoc. She started her career in product management at LinkedIn, where she shipped many core products across both the consumer and enterprise side of the business. Liz also spent time as a venture capital investor focused on enterprise AI, healthcare, and consumer technology. She holds dual degrees in Computer Science and Philosophy from Stanford University.