Finding the most effective treatment with the least harmful side effects can be a big struggle for many headache and migraine sufferers. In some cases, preventative or abortive headache medication can cause other side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. Some people opt out of taking medication all together.
If you’re prone to side effects, there are still alternative non-pharmaceutical treatments that could help reduce or treat your headaches or migraines, depending on the cause of your head pain.
According to an article in the New York Times, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated that acupuncture can relieve chronic pain such as migraines.
“Acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body,” according to Medline Plus. “This is most often done by inserting thin needles through the skin, to cause a change in the physical functions of the body.”
Dorothy Pang, an acupuncturist, said in an email that many of her patients with migraines benefit from acupuncture.
“My patients often seek acupuncture care because they do not want to take prescription medications, which tend to be so strong in side effects that they can't work or drive,” Pang said.
She said this form of treatment can reduce migraine intensity by the end of the session in some cases, but it depends on the individual for long-term effects.
“Long term effects, as in prevention of return migraines, can take several weeks to several months to happen,” Pang said.
She added that acupuncture creates a “whole system balance,” and sometimes improves other health problems like sleep and digestion.
Some studies have shown that acupuncture is no better than a placebo though. According to Reuters, a “sham” acupuncture treatment was just as helpful as a traditional acupuncture treatment.
Another option is chiropractic adjustments. According to the American Chiropractic Association’s website, spinal manipulation could relieve headaches that start in the neck.
Dr. Austin Cohen, a chiropractor and health coach, said in an email that he suggests traction for the neck to help treat headaches and migraines, as well as chiropractic adjustments.