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Simple Lifestyle Changes May Ease Chronic Headache

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There are some other simple techniques that may stop the pain, Silberstein tells WebMD. "Eating regular meals, getting plenty of exercise, and learning how to manage stress are some other keys to prevention," he says. And "by all means, limit your intake of MSG, caffeine, and alcohol." He also notes that many patients have found relief after mastering muscle relaxation through biofeedback.

A study led by Ninan Matthew, MD, a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Texas, found that four months of treatment involving the types of methods suggested by Silberstein could significantly decrease the symptoms of CDH.

In Ninan's study of more than 200 patients, the initial treatment included detoxification from pain medication, plus intravenous therapy with a drug called dihydroergotamine (DHE). It's not yet known how DHE and detoxification work, but they're thought to reset the brain for normal functioning. Later, the study participants were given behavioral and dietary counseling, as well as biofeedback and physical therapy.

The researchers, at the Houston Headache Clinic, measured the patients' responses using a questionnaire called the Migraine Disability Assessment Tool (MIDAS).

"Disability was strongly correlated with headache frequency, but after four months of treatment, MIDAS scores decreased significantly," says Mathew, who also is past president of the International Headache Society.

Vital Information:

  • Chronic daily headache (CDH) is defined as having tension or migraine headaches at least 15 days per month for at least six months.
  • Other conditions associated with CHD are prior headaches, family history of headaches, head injury, and fibromyalgia.
  • Exercising, avoiding certain foods, and, sometimes, stopping certain medications, are all ways to help prevent chronic headaches.
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