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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Understanding Headache -- Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Headaches? continued...

Decongestants -- and sometimes antibiotic treatment -- can relieve sinus headaches.

Avoiding Headache Triggers

If you identify factors that trigger your headaches -- such as certain foods, caffeine, alcohol, or noise -- try to avoid these triggers. To learn more about what triggers your headaches, keep a headache diary that includes answers to these questions.

  • When did you first develop headaches?
  • How often do you have them?
  • Do you experience symptoms prior to the headaches?
  • Where is the pain exactly?
  • How long does it last?
  • At what time of day do the headaches occur?
  • Does the eating of certain types of food precede your headaches?
  • If you're female, at what time in your monthly cycle do they occur?
  • Are the headaches triggered by physical or environmental factors, such as odor, noise, or certain kinds of weather?
  • What words most accurately describe the pain of your headache: throbbing, stabbing, blinding, piercing, for example?


Chiropractic and Osteopathy to Treat Headaches

When muscle strain causes tension headaches, a chiropractor may be able to ease the strain by spinal or cervical manipulation and realignment.

Osteopaths are also able to supplement their treatment of headaches by using various forms of manipulation and soft-tissue techniques to the head, neck, and upper back. 

Biofeedback and Relaxation and Headache Control

Biofeedback and relaxation techniques can be effective for headache relief.

Electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback helps you control how specific muscle groups react to stress. This may help prevent or relieve tension headaches. 

Acupuncture for Headaches

Several studies have shown that acupuncture may help relieve tension and migraine headaches.

Headaches and Mind-Body Medicine

Hypnosis, deep breathing, visualization, meditation, and yoga may provide relief from pain by relieving system-wide stress and tension. This may help for tension headaches. Hypnosis may lower your perception of pain.

Cognitive behavioral therapy mixes meditation and relaxation with education in coping skills, motivation, and behavior. With the help of a psychotherapist you can learn to change negative thoughts and attitudes, modify the way you respond to stress, and possibly help avoid tension headaches. 

Botox for Headaches

Botox, widely known for use as a cosmetic agent, has been FDA approved to prevent chronic migraine headache in adults. The agency defines chronic headache as having a migraine headache 15 or more days per month with headaches lasting four hours a day or longer. To treat chronic migraine headache, Botox is given about every three months as multiple injections around the head and neck. Recent research, though, has not shown effectiveness in the prevention of tension headaches. 



How Can I Prevent Headaches?

If you identify factors that make your headaches worse -- certain foods, caffeine, alcohol, or noise, for example -- try to avoid these triggers.

There are medications and relaxation techniques that can prevent headaches, make them happen less often, and/or make them less severe. Ask your doctor if some of them might be right for you.

Also, Cefaly is the first FDA-approved device for preventing migraines in people over age 18. The portable headband-like device gives electrical impulses on the skin at the forehead. This stimulates  the trigeminal nerve, which is associated with migraine headaches. Cefaly is used once a day for 20 minutes, and when it's on you'll feel a tingling or massaging sensation.   




WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 25, 2014

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