It’s tough for anyone to understand headaches, especially migraine headaches if you have never suffered through one. Migraines effect up to 15% percent of the population and are significantly more common in women than in men. Those with migraines often suffer debilitating headaches accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light. For women, migraines are often associated with hormonal changes. Migraine does not have to be your normal. In this blog entry I will discuss various conservative treatment options for migraines that are supported by current headache research.
Traditional pharmaceutical treatments for migraines include Tylenol, Excedrin and other caffeine containing analgesics; amitriptyline ( also known as Elavil, Tryptizol, Laroxyl, Sarotex, Lentizol); Topamax and Imitrix. These formulations provide temporary relief but research cannot confirm that these medications are effective long-term. In addition, these medications may cause a variety of side effects. In many cases, long-term use of the above medications increases headache frequency following discontinuation of use.
Migraines and Chiropractic Care
Latest research indicates the benefits of conservative treatment are at least equally effective and possibly more so than medications such as amitryptiline, Topamax, Imitrix, without the risk of side effects. In addition, conservative treatment reduces the frequency and severity of headaches when compared to pre treatment headaches rates. The same statement cannot be made with pharmaceutical treatment of migraine. Conservative treatments aim to prevent the headache from occurring in the first place. As migraine sufferers know, it is much easier to prevent a headache than to stop it once it starts. To begin, I will discuss physical medicine’s role in treating migraines and then I will address nutraceutical approaches to prevent migraines.
Chiropractic adjustments of the cervical region of the spine provide documented long-term reduction in headaches. A significant number of migraine suffers report a decrease in the intensity and frequency of their headaches as well as decrease in the amount of medication used. In some cases medication use stopped completely! Usually the cause for head pain is found in the upper cervical spine. The research literature documents the effectiveness of chiropractic cervical manipulation to reduce both the frequency and severity of migraine headaches in many sufferers, even after treatment is discontinued.
Deep tissue massage to upper cervical musculature and trigger point therapy is also useful in the reduction of migraine pain. The purpose of trigger point therapy is to release compressed nerves that are involved with the onset of migraine. This type of treatment is best used in conjunction with other therapies, but may provide relief for the migraine sufferer.
Alternative Treatments for Migraine Headaches
The practice of relaxation techniques and meditation have also shown success in the treatment of migraine pain once it has begun.
Nutraceutical approaches may also be helpful and have shown success in reducing incidence of migraine headaches. Some of the following treatment regimens are helpful to sufferers of migraines. You may want to discuss the following options with your health care provider.
Magnesium supplementation has also been found to reduce migraine frequency, particularly migraines in children and in menstrual related migraines. It is important the magnesium be pharmaceutical grade, highly absorbable magnesium. Magnesium, in combination with B vitamin therapy, can help reduce and in some cases eliminate migraines, particularly those that induced by the menstrual cycle.
Omega 3 can help provide headache relief. Omega 3’s reduce inflammatory processes in the body. Is it any surprise that Omega 3’s help yet another condition?
Feverfew and butterbur are two herbal supplements that have had initial success in preventing migraines. It is important to check the quality of the butterbur. Natural butterbur contains alkaloids that may damage the liver and lungs. Check to make sure you are using a high quality butterbur supplement that has removed these alkaloids. Before starting these herbals, discuss their use and appropriate dosage with your physician.
As sufferers of migraines know, it is important to know your triggers. Headache triggers are many and varied. Some you may be able to control, for example particular foods or lack of sleep may make it more likely to get a migraine. Other triggers such as hormones and stress, are not directly in your control. Even these triggers may be modified by exercise, healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices.
With appropriate choices and treatment, the quality of life for migraine sufferers can be greatly improved!
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Chaibi A, Tuchin PJ, & Russell MB. (2011). Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 12(2), 127-33.
Diener HC, Rahlfs VW, & Danesch U. (2004). The first placebo-controlled trial of a special butterbur root extract for the prevention of migraine: reanalysis of efficacy criteria. European Neurology. 51(2), 89-97.
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