If you are concerned about the side effects of traditional migrain headache medications, fret not — alternative treatments for migraine are available. Alternative treatments for migraine headaches include chiropractic joint manipulation, massage, acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, feverfew supplements and a dental device known as an NTI-tss.
Chiropractic Joint Manipulation
For years, chiropractic joint manipulation has been suggested as an alternative treatment for migraine headaches. Chiropractic therapy involves the manipulation of the spine to correct a variety of disorders. Migraine headaches are treated both by joint manipulation and reducing muscle tension. Often at-home massage of the neck muscles is also recommended.
Clinical trials examining joint manipulation and migraine treatment vary in their results, although many people claim to have received headache relief through chiropractic care. Chiropractic therapy for migraines often requires two to three joint manipulations a week for a period of four to six weeks.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
The Oriental science of acupuncture has also been used to treat migraines. Research suggests that acupuncture can work well as a preventative measure, reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches. Why acupuncture works is a mystery: it has been suggested that endorphins are released when the acupuncture points are stimulated, or that regular treatment stabilizes the brain’s serotonin levels.
Acupressure is closely related to acupuncture. Instead of using needles, massage is used to stimulate the body’s pressure points. Acupressure has the advantage that it can be used by anyone, once they have been taught which pressure points to manipulate. Two common acupressure techniques that provide headache relief can be found on our Getting Relief page.
Of all the herbal remedies claiming to relieve headache pain (and there are a great many of them), feverfew is one of the most popular. Used extensively for headaches in Europe, feverfew contains a substance called parthenolide. Parthenolide prevents the production of the chemicals that cause the brain’s blood vessels to dilate.
Feverfew is a preventative agent, and must be taken for several weeks before relief is felt. Side effects are most commonly stomach problems and nervousness. Some studies indicate that long-term feverfew users experience anxiety, insomnia and intense headaches if they suddenly stop taking the herb.
Little scientific research has been done into the use of aromatherapy to treat migraines. Unless your migraine is triggered by perfumes, however, it probably can’t hurt to try aromatherapy. Rosemary is generally held to be the best essential oil to use, although aromatherapists also recommend peppermint and chamomile. A few drops of rosemary oil may be heated to release their scent, or dropped into a hot bath—many people find hot baths relieve their migraines. A massage with a mixture of ten drops of rosemary oil and an ounce of carrier oil, such as olive or vegetable oil, may also help. Never use essential oils on the skin without first diluting them with a carrier oil: some essential oils can be quite harsh and irritate the skin.
NTI-tss: Relief Through Dentistry
The FDA recently approved the use of the NTI-tss suppression system for migraine prevention The NTI-tss is a small removable device worn during sleep, which prevents the jaw muscles from contracting. Migraineurs often clench their jaw muscles more than other people during sleep, resulting in excessive amounts of muscle tension. An NTI-tss needs to be custom-built by a dentist, a procedure that requires a dental appointment.
There you have it — the five alternative treatments for migraine headaches. These alternative treatments may not work as fast or as effectively as traditional, drug-based migraine treatments, but they have zero or minimal side effects. And this, for some migraine sufferers, makes them preferable.