Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alternative Headache Therapy

Treating the different forms of headache and chronic pain syndromes often requires an individualized approach, utilizing a team of specific professionals to achieve lasting success. Several treatment trials may be required until lasting success is achieved. Using conventional prescription medications until the right nutritional and lifestyle approach is firmly established should be considered in order to decrease suffering and disability. Also, we sometimes need to treat depression or anxiety first in order to remove roadblocks to lifestyle change.

Treatment of these conditions results in gradual and delayed improvement. Once an adequate response has occurred, we can start to eliminate several of the supplements as long as your diet and lifestyle are back on a healthy track.

To reduce Pain immediately try laying down in a dark quiet room. Put a cold moist towel over your forehead. Massage your scalp using a lot of pressure. Put pressure on your temples.

Don’t smoke. If you do, quit.

Avoid excess alcohol (especially red wine). If you drink more than two alcohol-containing beverages a few times a week or if you binge not infrequently, cut down.

Avoid caffeine/stimulants. If you drink coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate, cocoa, carob, or take supplements with caffeine, Kola nut, guarana, Ma Huang, or ephedra/sudoephedrine in over the counter diet supplements or decongestant medications, you will need to slowly wean off of these over a few weeks.

Avoid regular use of pain medications (Excedrin/ibuprofen/Tylenol etc) more than three or four times a week, or combination headache medications like Esgic or Fiorinal on a regular basis.

Avoid strong odors, bright lights and loud noises. These can all be migraine triggers as can stress, weather change, fatigue, eyestrain, menstruation, loud noises, over exertion, and fatigue.

Avoid certain foods or food additives Some of these items may be triggers. Try to find out which if any seem to be associated with headache shortly after ingestion; Aged, canned cured, or processed meat (bologna, game, ham, herring, hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage), artificial sweeteners- Aspartamine/Nutrasweet, Avocados, Beans (pea pods, snow peas, pole, broad, lima, Italian, navy, pinto, garbanzo, and lentils), Brewer’s yeast (fresh yeast coffee cake, donuts, sourdough bread), Canned soup or bouillon cubes, most Cheeses especially aged cheese, Cultured dairy like buttermilk and sour cream, Figs, citrus fruits, Meat tenderizer (MSG), Nuts and peanut butter, Onions except for flavoring, Papaya, Passion fruit, Pickled salty or marinated foods (olives, pickles, sauerkraut, soy sauce, seasoned salt), Raisins, and Red plums.

Avoid missing meals or fasting. If you are overweight, moderate weight loss of five to ten pounds, at a level of a pound or two a week may provide benefit.

Be aware of symptoms that precede migraine such as fatigue, yawning, excitability, high energy, visual disturbances (flashes sparks, wavey lines, blind spots, and nasal congestion.

Consider early abortive treatments with Tryptan Rx medication, or Excedrin Migraine as indicated by your doctor. Realize that early treatment might prevent a full blown disabling migraine from blossoming.

Consider preventive or prophylactic treatments if you need headache medication more than 2 days a week or you are functioning poorly due to any aspect of the migraine spell on a fairly regular basis, you should consider preventive therapies. There are a few FDA approved medicines and a myriad of off label prescription medications in an array of categories such as blood pressure lowering, antidepressant and seizure prevention medications that if taken daily can lessen the severity and or reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.

Exercise- moderate levels such as a brisk walk outside for thirty minutes five times a week or swimming is very helpful, especially during daylight hours. Advance to include resistance training, stretching, and more intense aerobic exercise as time and tolerance permit. Start with a physical therapist or trainer to avoid injury.

Maintain consistent sleep/awake hours. Schedules that vary often induce headaches.

*Magnesium Slo Mag (over the counter), or Mag Ox 400 mg, one pill two times a day.

Calcium 1,200-1,500 mg per day with Zinc/vitamin D
Calcium citrate with meals two to three times a day- Citrical, Oscal-D, Cal/Mag/Zinc, or nonfat dairy sources, especially from yogurt three to four servings day as well as green leafy vegetables.

B Complex or multivitamin with Bs-Centrum silver, etc…

*Take omega 3 fatty acids or Essential Fatty Acids (4-6 grams a day is the suggested range). This ideally it should come from actual fish (salmon, sardines, cod, or small mackerel), walnuts or fresh flaxseed oil has some omega 3 fat but its biological effects may vary. Extracted fish oil capsules are generally distilled and not likely to carry many impurities such as mercury or pesticides etc. Some brands that have less fishy aftertaste are Fisol and Omega Synergy that (can be bought by ordering it on the web at; or by calling 1-800-847-8302). These can additionally be kept in the freezer further reducing aftertaste issues if present.

*Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may help when taken in higher than the 2mg/day RDA dose. Doses of (200mg 2x a day = 400mg a day) have proven helpful at decreasing headaches over time in many people. It usually takes about 3 months to start working.

*Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) containing greater then 0.2% parthenolide 50-100mg a day has proven to reduce migraines, and prevent recurrent attacks as a maintenance treatment where conventional treatments have been inadequate.

“MigreLief” combines Magnesium, B2/Riboflavin and Feverfew) 1 tablet twice a day $17 to $25 a month

*Butterbur Petasites Hybridus in extract form known as Petadolex 150mg a day- as published in “Neurology” reduced the frequency of migraines by almost 50%– costs $40- $50 a month.- may cause upset stomach or burping – may also help in asthma and allergies

*Co-Enzyme Q10 100mg as a gel 3 x a day may reduce headache frequency by a third- worth a try for a month or two. If you find a good source it should only cost $40 a month but can be very expensive.

Sinus Buster capascin hot pepper nasal spray can help with chronic sinus congestion, sinus and migraine headache control as well as per noted from the Princeton Longevity Center 11/07,

Acupuncture has proved quite helpful for both acute treatment of pain symptoms as well as the maintenance of more chronic arthritic or inflammatory problems.

Less well proven approaches that some patients have reported success with include:

Evaluating for unfavorable bacterial overgrowth in the intestinal tract and removing, replacing, and repopulating and retaining a healthy balance of intestinal flora with probiotic supplements may also play a role in treating more serious inflammatory conditions.

Detoxification with a combination medical foods and elimination diets may also help achieve a reduction in the inflammatory process causing arthritis and chronic pain. It may also help to detoxify one’s system further reducing inflammation.

Fatigue- American Ginseng for, 200-2,000 mg per day as needed.

Insomnia- Chamomile tea and Valerian capsules at bedtime.

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