Integrative Health Blog

An Integrative Medicine Approach to Headaches

Posted by admin on Wed, Jul 21, 2010

by Cathlene Scoblionko NP



Many people who suffer from headaches search for a way to prevent them, as well as, treat them in a way that involves less down time, less medication, and less expense. There is no doubt that there are some great medications out there for treating the different kinds of headaches.  Muscle tension headaches respond well to NSAIDS and muscle relaxants, migraines respond well to the triptan medications.  However, most medications do just that- treat the headache once it is there.  There are some medications that are preventative but require daily dosing which can be expensive and increase the possibility of side effects.  What types of complementary or alternative methods might there be to prevent headaches?  We cannot answer that question until we know what causes headache pain. 

What are some of the common muscle tension or stress headache triggers?

  • Lack of sleep, poor sleep, poor sleep conditions
  • Head or neck injury
  • Repetitive stress such as sitting at the computer all day
  • Emotional stress
  • Tension or strain of neck, scalp, face, jaw
  • Eye strain

How can headaches be prevented?

  • Get enough refreshing sleep
  • 7-8 hours minimum
    • Comfortable, supportive, clean sleep surface
    • Comfortable room temperature
    • No EMF’s- turn off the TV, Cell phone, wireless network, computer
    • No stimulants before bed, no caffeine or sugar
    • Minimize fluids depending on your own bladder habits
    • No showers- water hitting the skin is stimulating, take a warm bath instead
  • Exercise daily and this means more than just walking the dog. If you are unsure of how to exercise properly and safely ask a professional trainer.
  • Three components are necessary for exercise: Flexibility- stretch,  Strength- resistance training (usually with weights), and Endurance – cardiovascular or aerobic
  • Daily meditations or centering: Prayer, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, Sitting Meditation

If you use the above techniques and still suffer regularly from muscle tension headaches you should have another work-up to rule out more serious problems.  If the work up has already shown nothing more, make an appointment to discuss a personalized integrative medicine approach to headache treatment and prevention.  The above lists are, by no means, comprehensive.  I didn’t even touch on the dietary influences.  More to come.

Cathy Scoblionko NP is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, an integrative medicine and dental center serving the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia metro area. Her areas of specialty include Holistic Primary Care, Hormone Balancing, Anti-aging medicine, and Women's Health.

Topics: integrative medicine, headaches