For many people, complementary or alternative therapies offer relief from headache pain. It's important to be cautious, however. Not all complementary or alternative therapies have been studied as headache treatments, and others need further research.
- Acupuncture. This ancient technique uses hair-thin needles inserted into several areas of your skin at defined points. While the results are mixed, some studies have shown that acupuncture helps reduce the frequency and intensity of chronic headaches.
- Biofeedback. You might be able to control headaches by becoming more aware of and then changing certain bodily responses, such as muscle tension, heart rate and skin temperature.
- Massage. Massage can reduce stress, relieve pain and promote relaxation. Although its value as a headache treatment hasn't been determined, massage may be particularly helpful if you have tight muscles in the back of your head, neck and shoulders.
Herbs, vitamins and minerals. Some evidence exists that the herbs feverfew and butterbur may prevent migraines or reduce their severity. A high dose of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) also may reduce migraine headaches.
Coenzyme Q10 supplements may be helpful in some individuals. And oral magnesium sulfate supplements may reduce the frequency of headaches in some people, although studies don't all agree. Ask your doctor if these treatments are right for you. Don't use riboflavin (vitamin B-2), feverfew or butterbur if you're pregnant.
- Electrical stimulation of the occipital nerve. A small battery-powered electrode is surgically implanted near the occipital nerve, which is at the base of your neck. The electrode sends continuous energy pulses to the nerve to ease pain. This approach is considered investigational.
Before trying complementary or alternative therapy, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
March 10, 2015
- Garza I, et al. Overview of chronic daily headache. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 6, 2015.
- Yancey JR, et al. Chronic daily headache: Diagnosis and management. American Family Physician. 2014;89:642.
- Halker RB, et al. Chronic daily headache: An evidence-based and systematic approach to a challenging problem. Neurology. 2011;76:S37.
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Ahmed F, et al. Chronic daily headaches. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology. 2012;15:S40.
- Headaches and complementary health approaches. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/headachefacts.htm. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
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