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Courtesy of The Cleveland Clinic Information Center

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Chiropractic manipulation

Chiropractics is a form of treatment involving spinal manipulation. It has been claimed that migraine, tension-type headache, and post-traumatic headache may benefit from this technique based on the theory that pain arises from abnormal motion and irritation to the neck muscles and nerves and other tissues and that manipulation can alleviate the pain by restoring normal mobility and function. It’s important to note that there is not as much scientific evidence supporting chiropractic manipulation as a headache approach as there is for other more "mainstream" treatment approaches. Furthermore, excessive manipulation may actually cause additional problems. Ask your primary care physician if this therapeutic approach is suitable for you.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine and controls pain by the skilled placement of small, sharp needles along select points on the body. It is thought that stimulation of the acupuncture points results in the release of endorphins -- the body’s natural pain reliever. If you choose this form of therapy, make sure your practitioner is certified and that clean, sterile needles are used. Acupressure follows the same principles as acupuncture but replaces needles with the application of physical pressure.


Aromatherapy involves the distillation of essential oils from plants. These oils are inhaled or absorbed through the skin in the form of ointments, compresses or aromatic baths. Some aromatherapy products may benefit some headache sufferers. (On the other hand, some odors may increase or provoke nausea if used during migraine attacks.) In particular, oil from lavender flower has been used to relieve muscle spasm and a small amount can be massaged over tense muscles of the forehead, neck or shoulders. In addition, a combination of peppermint and eucalyptus oils, when massaged into the forehead, have been found effective in relieving tension-type headache.

Magnesium and Riboflavin

There is some scientific evidence showing that the mineral magnesium given daily either alone or with a daily dose of riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2) can reduce migraine frequency. Ask your doctor about this treatment option.

Herbal therapy

The following herbal products have been used to treat headache or for pain relief:

Unlike medications, herbal products do not undergo vigorous clinical study and review by the Food and Drug Administration, therefore a very cautious approach to their use should be the norm. Not all herb products are safe and more research -- especially in children -- is needed to define who benefits, the proper dosing to exert a benefit, and to identify any side effects. Other tips regarding use of herbal products include:

10 ways to ease stress

By Michael G. McKee, PhD, Section of Health Psychology, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, The Cleveland Clinic

  1. Eat and drink sensibly. Alcohol and food abuse may seem to reduce stress, but they actually add to it. Eat well-balanced meals. Also get plenty of rest and sleep.
  2. Assert yourself. You do not have to meet others’ expectations or demands. It’s okay to say "No." Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others. Be assertive instead of becoming angry, aggressive, combative or passive.
  3. Stop smoking or other bad habits. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms. Give yourself the gift of dropping unhealthy habits.
  4. Exercise regularly. Choose non-competitive exercise and set reasonable goals. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude). Alternative mind-body techniques -- such as Tai Chi, yoga, and meditation -- can also be considered.
  5. Study and practice relaxation techniques. Relax every day — choose from a variety of different techniques. Combine opposites — a time for deep relaxation and a time for aerobic exercise is a sure way to protect your body from the effects of stress.
  6. Take responsibility. Control what you can and accept that there are events that you cannot control.
  7. Reduce stressors (causes of stress). Many people find life synonymous with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management skills involve delegating when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself and taking time out for yourself.
  8. Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions are in accordance with your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
  9. Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay, and healthy, to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything at once.
  10. Sell yourself to yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

2-minute relaxation exercise

Turn your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped, such as your shoulders or neck. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop any movements that cause pain.) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel more relaxed now.

© Copyright 1995-2005 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
Printed with Permission.

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