Unlike other headaches, migraines are caused by vasodilation, or enlargement of the blood vessels, resulting in severe pain. They may be triggered by stress, food allergies or malnutrition. Several alternative treatment methods can be used, which can be be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, conventional medical care.
A number of herbs have been used traditionally to treat headaches and migraines, including peppermint, chamomile, ginger and gotu kola. According to the U.S. Clayton College of Natural Health Herb Guide, the natural pain reliever feverfew is one of the most useful herbs for migraines. As the Herb Guide explains, it helps reduce inflammation, and enhances the secretion of histamine and serotonin, which help blocks the body's inflammatory response. It has been used for both headaches and rheumatoid arthritits. Pregnant women should not take feverfew due to its stimulating effects on the uterus.
Acupuncture is a form of therapy that utilises fine needles inserted into the body to stimulate energy channels, called meridians, which facilitate healing. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years, and medical research on its effectiveness is ongoing, though so far has produced mixed results. One study, published in the "British Journal of Medicine" in 2004, did show that acupuncture was clinically beneficial for patients with chronic headache, particularly migraines.
Chiropractic treatments involve manipulating, or adjusting, the spine to relieve compressions in the spinal column. Commonly used for chronic back pain, research shows that chiropratic treatments may also be effective for migraines and other chronic headaches. In a study published in a February 2000 issue of the "Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics," researchers found that participants showed "statistically significant improvement in migraine frequency." The same study pointed out that chiropractic treatments not only helped reduce the frequency of attacks, but also relieved stress related to the effects of chronic pain.
Because certain foods and food allergies or sensitivities play a major role in the frequency and intensity of migraines, dietary modifications are often recommended as a natural approach to managing chronic migraines. Certain foods and chemical additives have been identified as migraine triggers. These include caffeine, alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), chocolate, aged cheeses, aspartame and nitrites (found in lunch meats, bacon and hotdogs). It is appropriate for migraine sufferers to avoid these foods and ingredients as much as possible to prevent triggering an attack.
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