Headaches and Natural Health Care

We know that there are side effects and dangers to drug therapy. Are there any safe alternatives to the medical approach to headaches? Safe, hands on therapies like chiropractic, acupuncture and even massage can offer the headache sufferer relief that is safe and free from side effects.

According to research appearing in the British Medical Journal (2004; 328(7442):744), acupuncture may be beneficial to headache patients. The study involved 401 subjects who regularly experienced headaches several times each week. Patients were divided into two groups. One group received 12 acupuncture treatments during a three month period. The other group did not.

The patients receiving the acupuncture experienced a reduction in the number of headaches-22 fewer, on average, over the course of a year. The acupuncture group also had a decreased number of doctors’ visits (by 25%), had 15% fewer sick days and took 15% less medication than the control group. There was also a reduction in the severity of the headaches for those who received acupuncture.

Research appearing in the journal Headache (2006; 46(10): 1492-502) tested the response migraine patients had to 12 weeks of treatment with acupuncture. Subjects of the study were 114 patients with a history of migraine headaches. For four weeks prior to the beginning of the study the subjects kept a diary and recorded information about their headaches. After the four weeks, the subjects were randomly divided into two groups. For twelve weeks, one group received drugs commonly prescribed to prevent migraines (metoprolol). The other group received between eight and 15 acupuncture treatments. Two of the subjects receiving the acupuncture dropped out of the study, while 18 of the subjects receiving the drug therapy dropped out of the study; some of those receiving the drug had side-effects, one patient actually got worse and quit using the drug.

In the group receiving the acupuncture, 61% had 50% or fewer migraine attacks. In the group receiving the drug, 49% had 50% or fewer migraine attacks. During a follow-up 12 weeks after the study, 70% of the acupuncture patients assessed themselves as being “good” or “very good”, compared to 49% of the patients who received the drugs.

After 24 weeks, only 26% of the drug group reported doing “good” or “very good” compared to 56% of the acupuncture group. In this study, acupuncture compared favorably to drugs for the prevention of migraines.

127 subjects were involved in this controlled study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (Feb. 2000:23(2), pp91-5). The subjects all had at least one migraine headache per month, based on the International Headache Society standard. The response of the group receiving treatment showed improvement in migraine duration, frequency, and disability. Those receiving chiropractic treatments used less medication than the control group. Of those receiving chiropractic adjustments, 22% reported a greater than 90% reduction in migraines after just 2 months of care. Additionally, another 50% of the group receiving chiropractic adjustments reported significant improvement in the severity of migraines.

Other scientific studies have demonstrated that chiropractic care is safe and effective in treating headaches. A review of research articles appearing in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (2001;24:457-466) found that spinal manipulation was beneficial to headache patients.

Even massage therapy is useful. Research appearing in the American Journal of Public Health (October 2002;92(10):1657-1661) showed that massage therapy could reduce the duration of headaches.