Headaches: CAM Therapies for Specific
- Behavioral medicine is effective with headache patients. It
is particularly effective for tension headaches, which are generally caused by
a maladaptive reaction to stress.
- Biofeedback, a training program used to improve a
person's control over autonomic body functions, is used to treat headaches.
Headache is one of about 150 conditions that appear to respond positively to
biofeedback. It is often considered to be more scientific than other relaxation
- Acupuncture is used as an effective treatment for
headaches. In a 1984 study by Dr. Leng Loh of 48 migraine patients, 59 percent
reported benefits from acupuncture, compared to 25 percent who benefited from
drug therapy. Most recently in 1997, the National Institutes of Health
indicated that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for headaches.
- Herbs are often used as a treatment for
headaches. According to a 1997 Prevention magazine survey, 22 percent of all medicinal herb use in
America is used for the treatment of headaches. Herbs generally have a milder
effect than pharmaceutical drugs, and often have fewer side effects.
- Feverfew is an herb in the daisy family that is
frequently used in England for migraine prevention, arthritis treatment, as
well as fever and menstrual problems. Usual dosage is to gradually increase up
to 125 mg daily to prevent migraine headaches and upwards of 250 mg per day to
prevent arthritic pain. Any feverfew product should be standardized to contain
at least 0.4 percent parthenolide. Feverfew should not be used during pregnancy
since it may stimulate uterine contractions and should not be used with
anticoagulants such as Coumadin since feverfew acts as an anticoagulant.
Although studies indicate that it can prevent and decrease the frequency and
intensity of migraines, there is no evidence of a positive effect once a
migraine is in onset.
- Naturopathic treatment of headaches can be effective.
Headaches are one of the conditions naturopaths most commonly treat, using a wide,
eclectic array of treatments including nutritional therapy, MindBody therapies,
homeopathy, and herbal therapies.
- Herbs are used to treat migraine headaches. A
1988 study demonstrated reduced symptoms in migraine patients who used herbal
- Chiropractic treatment of headaches may be effective,
but results are equivocal. In a number of clinical studies, chiropractic was
found to be at least as effective as medication and massage.
- Brahmi is valued in the treatment of headaches.
This Ayurvedic herbal preparation is an anti-anxiety substance, and can be
applied in conjunction with yoga and dietary therapy.
- Maharishi Ayur-Ved interventions show significant success in the
treatment of headaches. In a 1989 pilot study of 126 people who used these
interventions for a variety of conditions, including headaches, 79 percent of
the participants showed improvement, 14 percent showed no change, and 7 percent
became worse. This suggests that the approach has merit.
Caution: Homeopathy appears not
too effective for migraine headaches. Two well-controlled studies on the
homeopathic treatment of migraines did not show that homeopathy was more
effective than placebo. One study, conducted in 1997, was very well designed
and showed no effect.
Caution: Effectiveness of
chiropractic interventions for headache is promising, though not clearly
effective, based on the findings to date. Relief of common headache would be
significant if it resulted in long-term relief. Studies do not confirm that
long-term relief occurs in the presence of chiropractic manipulation.
Caution: Approximately 10
percent of people using the herb feverfew may experience mouth ulcers. Other
reported side effects are gastrointestinal upset, anxiety, and actually
inducing headaches. Feverfew interacts with blood thinners, or anticoagulants,
so consult with your doctor if you are using blood-thinning medications.
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BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: WHAT WORKS? WHAT DOES NOT? by Dr. Kenneth R.
Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R.
permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.
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