Capital Health Headache Experts Outline Holistic Methods to Treat Migraine, Chronic Headache

ATLANTIC CITY —  For those with headache, especially chronic headache and migraine, the first instinct may be to reach for medication. Yet alternatives exist.

Dr. Mitra Assadi, director of Headache Medicine and Pediatric Neurology at Capital Health, led a discussion on Thursday at the 5th Annual Capital Institute for Neurosciences Conference about holistic approaches to manage migraine headache.

Dr. Assadi explained that migraines are caused by a cascade of neuro-chemical changes beginning with the blood vessels. She also explained why some individuals may not want to consider drugs for migraine treatment for reasons such as side effects, drug failure, personal preference and pregnancy.

Headache sufferers may also consider “headache hygiene” to reduce their headaches. For example, getting regular sleep (six to nine hours), eating regular meals, exercising, reducing stress levels and relaxation can all aid in reducing headaches.

Dr. Assadi noted the dietary factors such as alcohol, especially red wine, aspartame sweetener, caffeine, cheese and yogurt, MSG, chocolate and processed foods which can also contribute to headaches. She also alluded to a variety of food supplements which may be used for treatment of headaches.

At the same session, Dr. Jerrold Friedman, who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and acupuncture at the Capital Institute for Neurosciences, spoke about various acupuncture techniques used for treatment of migraine headaches.

He cited several studies in which patients experienced significant improvement in reducing headaches after completing acupuncture treatments.

"Acupuncture can't treat everything, but there is a lot of evidence showing that it is beneficial, even though we don’t know exactly why,” Friedman said.

He noted that following acupuncture treatment many patients experienced noticeable positive effects on the body lasting at least four months.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Bessey, a clinical psychologist at the Capital Institute for Neurosciences, explained how he uses the biofeedback in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat headaches.

Bessey explained his approach of examining patients’ stress levels and life style.

“Stress is a very normal response that has somehow gone awry, and has now overwhelmed the individual,” Bessey said. "We teach the individuals to cope with stress."

He said that biofeedback, when used with CBT, improves self-efficacy and reduces a patient's reliance on medication for pain management.

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