Several types of nonpharmacologic treatment, including physical exercise, relaxation training and acupuncture provide long-lasting improvements for patients with chronic tension-type headaches (CTTH), physical therapists in Sweden report in the November issue of Cephalalgia.
CTTH is defined as headache occurring 15 or more days per month for at least 6 months. Because continued use of pain medications can lead to medication overuse headache, “it is important to reduce analgesic consumption as a first step in the treatment of tension-type headaches,” states lead researcher Dr. Elisabeth Soderberg and associates.
The research team, at Sahlgrenska Academy, Goteborg University, designed a study in which 90 participants, who had CTTH for an average of 7 years, were randomly assigned to physical training, relaxation training or acupuncture. Physical training included neck and shoulder exercises, cycling and stretching. The relaxation training group learned breathing and stress coping techniques. The participants receiving acupuncture were treated with 30-minute sessions for 10 to 12 weeks.
Physical and relaxation training resulted in reduced headache intensity. Acupuncture significantly reduced headache intensity at 3 months and 6 months in within-group comparisons against baseline. Soderberg and her associates conclude that a combination of all three types of treatment may produce the most favorable outcome.
According to a recent online National Headache Foundation survey, prevalent triggers include stress, sleep routine changes, and smoke/perfume. An estimated 58 percent of headache sufferers have tried an alternative therapy because of medication ineffectiveness or side effects. The most common CAM therapies include massage for muscle tightness in the head, neck and shoulder area and acupuncture for headache pain relief.
Individuals who experience more than a few headaches a month should seek treatment. For more information on a holistic treatment program including massage, acupuncture, and herbal medicine consult your yellow pages for a licensed acupuncturist or call Dr. Browne at 305-595-9500.