Celebrating Students ’13: Jefferson Ajayi

This past summer, instead of going back to my peaceful little town of Richmond Heights Ohio, I decided to go to the city of Chicago for an internship at the Diamond Headache Clinic. This clinic specializes in headache, migraine, and other pain disorders associated with the head and neck. I worked there the previous summer as well, specializing in a procedure known as biofeedback. Although the name might sound very complicated and expensive, the procedure is very simple and anyone can do it whenever they want to.

Biofeedback is essentially a form of meditation. At the clinic I wired patients up to a machine that graphically displayed the patients’ body temperature and muscle tension in the hands, shoulders, neck, and head. The idea behind this procedure is to get the patients to put themselves in a very relaxed state in order to reduce blood flow in the blood vessels in the head (vasoconstriction) and increase blood flow in the hands (vasodilation). In patients who have tension type headache, vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the head through biofeedback have been shown to significantly reduce the pain associated with the tension type headache. The procedure involves deep breathing exercises using diaphragmatic breathing. This deep breathing oxygenates the body and puts the body in a state of relaxation with allows the mind to have more control over the body.

When the patients saw the graphical results of their muscle tension and hand temperature, many of them realized that they could control their hand temperature and muscle tension just by focusing on it. Many of the patients, who practiced this exercise on their own, were able to dramatically reduce muscle tension and increase the temperature of their hands, almost on command. These findings were very significant to me because it reinforced the idea that people can literally do anything they really put their minds and spirits into. One just has to see what they really want and pursue it. 

In addition to the biofeedback procedure, I also did research for my thesis on the environmental correlations to headache and migraine. I designed a questionnaire that broke the environmental proponents of headache and migraine into macro and micro proponents. The macro proponents pertained to things like community setting, climate, weather, etc. The micro proponents pertained to things like diet, stress management skills, exercise, etc.  The questionnaire was about the impact of where one lives and the impact of what one does to him or herself on headaches and migraines. I learned that the leading causes of headache and migraine in these patients were poor stress management skills and the type of lifestyles they were living, as in diet, level of exercise, and personality type. My conclusions were validated by the information presented National Headache Society conference, which was an excellent learning opportunity and greatly helped me with my research. Overall the past two summers taught me that I can do anything that I envision and that one must maintain a balanced and positive relationship with their mind, body, spirit and others in order to live a happier life. It’s the little things that always add up in a person’s life that play a significant role in determining one’s overall quality of life.