Alternative remedies are generally best suited for the management of chronic diseases. On the other hand, acute symptoms and medical emergencies often necessary conventional care. If you break a leg, to the hospital is obviously much better feeling than to be treated with guided imagery and an herbal compress. But with non-life threatening conditions such as recurrent headaches, side effects associated with long-term medication often natural resources a more attractive option.
In recent months there have been some promising studies on a variety of holistic treatments for chronic headache. Please note that I only have a handful of the latest published studies selected. (1)
Headache Remedy # 1 – Body Therapies
A recent study found that chiropractic was the most popular alternative therapy for “chronic tension-type headache“. The problem that many doctors have with this form of treatment is that there are not many well designed studies support the efficacy and safety in people with this breed of pain to prove. However, a new study appearing in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics helps to strengthen the case for chiropractic adjustments in the treatment of tension headaches.
- Participants with at least 10 tension-related headaches per month were included in the study. Headache Symptoms were recorded for 4 weeks prior to the introduction and 14 weeks later to closure.
- Four groups were established: a) chiropractic + medication b) chiropractic + placebo c) sham chiropractic + medication d) chiropractic sham + placebo.
Those who received the combination of chiropractic + medication showed a significant reduction in headache frequency. Although promising, the researchers call for additional research with a larger group of participants. (2,3,4,5,6)
One form of manipulation of the body known as trigger point therapy can also benefit from those with a “tension headache”. A recent scientific study describes trigger points as discrete, focal, hyper-irritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle. “The management of pain-relieving (analgesic) injections or carefully applied massage to these locations can often relieve chronic pain. This fact is supported by a number of recent studies. which the last 9 adolescent females involved in tension headache. All participants were administered twice a week “trigger point-specific physiotherapy.” Dramatic improvement in headache duration (77%), the frequency (68%) and intensity (74%) reported at approximately 7 sessions. No adverse effects were documented. A 2008 study from Spain also impressive success rates found in a larger and more diverse group of study volunteers. (7,8,9)
Headache Remedy # 2 – Mind-Body Therapies
Kiko, a Japanese martial art practice that “repetitive coordinated breath and movement”, it was recently found to significantly reduce migraine symptoms in a small group of headache patients. Baseline and post-trial migraine symptoms were assessed and recorded. The participants were taught Kiko in 3 monthly sessions and then practiced at home using an instructional DVD. Only about half of the study volunteers completed the 4 month trial. But all those who experienced “measurable improvement in their migraine” with “no side effects reported.” I am mentioning the relatively high “drop out” rate, since this is an important consideration when choosing any form of treatment. The fact is that many natural remedies more effort and perseverance than just popping a prescription capsule or tablet. (10)
Two new studies support the use of acupuncture in patients with both acute and chronic migraine. The first study appears in the June edition of the journal Headache. 175 migraine patients were divided into 3 groups – a treatment group, verum (true) acupuncture and two “fake” acupuncture groups received. The analgesic effect of the respective treatments were measured 1/2 hours, 1 hour, 2 hours and 4 hours after administration. The researchers also monitor the level of “annoyance”, pain and decline in the subsequent period of 24 hours. The authors of the study notes that real acupuncture, “… is more effective than sham acupuncture – in reducing the discomfort of an acute migraine Verum acupuncture is clearly effective in relieving pain and preventing migraine relapse.” . A separate study in April 2009 determined that the cause of acupuncture on the gallbladder and liver meridians (specific acupuncture points) may be more effective and safer than conventional drugs in the long term (chronic) management of migraine. The trial patients were followed for a total of 1.5 years. (11,12)
Common Trigger Points associated with headacheHeadache Remedy # 3 – Kampo (Japanese herbal medicine)
There are some people who have tried many conventional and natural treatments for chronic headache relief and have been unsuccessful. Sometimes they have to do the most respected experts in the field and have even tried the most stringent alternative options. To those people I say: please do not! There are always ways yet to be investigated. An example can be found in the July issue of the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. A case study is presented on a 13-year-old girl is physiologically healthy, but suffers from headaches since the age of 11. After a thorough evaluation of holistic, is a specific Japanese (Kampo) herbal remedy known as saikokaryukotsuboreito prescribed. The young lady took emergency relief, as long as she remembered her “medicine” to take. After 11 months of treatment, was the use of the herbal remedy discontinued. The headache did not return after that based on a 3-year follow-up evaluation. The authors of this case study noted that, “Kampo formulas are selected not only by addressing the primary symptom, but also by checking the other features (symptoms, constitution, etc.)”. Previous experiments with other Kampo herbal medicine (goshuyuto) have also noted success in larger study groups. (13,14,15)
It is vital to opportunities in health care. No one therapy is suitable for everyone – whether natural, synthetic or something in between. Man is not a “one size fits all” type of organism. We are unique in our physiological and psychological makeup and, therefore, an individualized medical approach. But if we are not aware of the available options, they practically do not exist. If Kampo just sounds like a strange word and a gun trigger point therapy brings to mind, it is highly unlikely that you ever get the chance to take advantage of this potentially life changing treatments. This is part of the reason I’m so glad to be able to investigate these and other topics and share them with you.