CAM Therapy For Migraines

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CAM Therapy For Migraines

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming more widely used by headache sufferers around the world for both prophylaxis and treatment of migraine attacks. Common CAM therapies include acupuncture, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, biofeedback, cognitive behavior therapy, massage therapy, dietary supplements – often in combination with conventional medicines. While these treatments can give patients control over their headaches as well as improved quality of life there is still debate regarding their safety or efficacy for migraines.

Migraine is a widespread and disabling condition, impacting more than 36 million Americans and ranking as the second-most disabling condition worldwide in terms of disability-adjusted life years. Unfortunately, many patients with migraine do not respond to conventional medications, leading many to seek alternative treatments such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in an effort to reduce frequency or severity. Unfortunately, few studies have been done that examine patient characteristics and CAM use patterns among chronic migraineurs.

Data collected on a community website was analyzed to identify migraineurs who use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for their symptoms and/or prevention of future headaches. We found that approximately 10% of migraineurs are using both treatments and prevention techniques.

Furthermore, migraineurs have a significantly higher prevalence of CAM than non-migraineurs. Of those who used it, 50% reported an improvement in their quality of life. Furthermore, most patients said their treatments improved their general health status and reduced stress levels.

To better understand the differences in CAM use and patient characteristics between CAM users and non-CAM users, a survey was administered to a random sample of patients visiting this web-community. The survey consisted of a 30-min self-report survey.

Descriptive statistics, analysis of variance and Pearson’s R correlation analyses were utilized to analyze survey data regarding various migraine characteristics. Of particular interest were the relationships between current CAM use satisfaction with negative life impact, psychiatric comorbid disorders, migraine frequency, number of symptoms and triggers associated with migraine attacks.

On the basis of one-way ANOVA tests, researchers compared CAM users and non-CAM users in terms of their CAM use, negative life impact, psychiatric co-morbidities, and migraine outcomes (Table 1). Results revealed chronic migraineurs who utilized CAM were more likely to experience prolonged or frequent headaches as well as greater negative life impacts compared to non-users. Furthermore, those using CAM reported greater satisfaction with their current use than non-users; additionally they had lower psychiatric co-morbidities and less migraine symptoms compared to nonusers.

There are a range of effective complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments that can be used to relieve migraine symptoms and frequency, including relaxation training (RT), thermal biofeedback combined with RT, hypnosis, and exercise. Research has demonstrated that RT, in particular, can decrease sympathetic activation and central pain processing – potentially helping prevent migraine attacks by lessening their intensity and timing. Other effective techniques to reduce migraine days and prevent headaches include autogenic training, progressive muscle RT (PMRT), diaphragmatic breathing, guided imagery, and meditation. These can usually be taught through printed or online materials but should be practiced regularly for maximum effectiveness.

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