Treating Headaches Alternatively

    (BlackDoctor.org) — Americans spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office looking for headache relief. Headaches account for more than 8 million doctor visits every year. And many of those headaches are chronic — occurring more than 15 days per month, for longer than three months.

    Some headaches are migraines, and others are commonly caused by tension or neck pain.

    Although headache treatment often involves taking pain pills, this type of relief carries with it the risk of side effects, rebound headaches (headaches brought on by taking too much medication), and addiction (like opioids, or narcotics). Some headache medication also has limited use for pregnant women and children. Consequently, many doctors and headache patients have become interested in alternative headache treatment.

    Alternative Medicine for Headache Relief

    According to Ellen Drexler, MD, director of the headache center at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, “Avoidance or management of stress, relaxation exercises, yoga, meditation, and other alternative medicine treatments can certainly be effective for many people, since stress is such a common headache trigger.”

    According to guidelines published by the National Headache Foundation (NHF), once you have an accurate headache diagnosis and have been assured that your pain is not related to any other serious condition, your headache treatment can be improved by the addition of alternative therapies.

    • Hands-on approach. Massage, chiropractic, physical therapy, and the application of hot and cold compresses are alternative medical treatments used to relieve chronic headaches. Although these therapies are difficult to study in clinical trials, they have been effective for some patients. Massage therapy may be particularly helpful for relieving stress and muscle tension-related headaches.

    • Sound body, sound mind. The benefits of exercise include better sleep, and routine exercise may also increase your brain’s ability to regulate pain. The NHF guidelines encourage regular exercise as part of a headache treatment plan. For example, yoga combines physical poses with relaxation, meditation, and breathing techniques. Yoga exercises may be useful in the prevention and treatment of headaches by reducing stress as well as improving the circulation and supply of oxygen to your brain and muscles.

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