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Alternative Treatments for Migraines and Headaches


Stress Management for Migraines and Headaches

Life events that increase stress, anxiety, and depression have been associated with chronic migraines and headaches. Studies show that a combination of stress management therapy and certain antidepressant drugs reduce headache, headache-related disability and use of pain medications.

It may be helpful to incorporate a regular practice of relaxation into a health-promoting lifestyle (getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet are examples of such a lifestyle).

Biofeedback and relaxation training can be obtained at the psychology, psychiatry, and integrative medicine departments of many medical centers.

Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that involves the insertion of very fine, solid needles into certain points of the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture helps headaches by stimulating the body's ability to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting energy imbalances. The term "chi" (pronounced "chee") is used to describe the energy that circulates through meridians in the body. The belief is that migraine and headache pain develops when the natural flow of chi is disrupted, leading to an imbalance of energy, and that acupuncture can correct this energy disruption to restore physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to studies, acupuncture may cause the release of pain-reducing opioid chemicals, such as endorphins. In addition, acupuncture may stimulate the brain to release other types of body chemicals and hormones that transmit signals between different types of cells, including those of the immune system.

Acupuncture appears to be beneficial in treating a variety of health problems in addition to headaches. The World Health Organization currently recognizes more than 30 diseases or conditions, ranging from allergies to tennis elbow, that can be helped by acupuncture treatment. The Consensus Statement on Acupuncture by the National Institutes of Health, released in 1997, stated that for conditions including headache, low back pain, menstrual cramps, and carpal tunnel syndrome, acupuncture was useful as an additional treatment or an acceptable alternative to be included in a comprehensive pain management program.

What makes acupuncture a unique anti-pain approach is the suggestion that its effects may be long-lasting. In one recent study, acupuncture treatment reduced chronic pain in the neck and shoulder areas and associated headache, with the effects lasting for months.

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