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Treatment without medication: gentle methods for headaches
According to an investigation, about one in ten Germans takes at least one headache tablet every day. Regular use of such medications can even worsen headaches. According to health experts, the pain in many sufferers can also be remedied using gentle methods.
In the case of a headache, the painkiller is reached too quickly. However, non-drug measures that have been proven to reduce the frequency of seizures are often not used consistently, writes the German Society for Neurology (DGN) in a statement. It is known that endurance sports, relaxation techniques and stress management help against tension headaches and migraines. Avoiding triggers can also reduce the frequency of attacks. As a result, medication intake can be reduced to a "healthy" level for many sufferers.
Tension headaches and migraines are the most common types of headache
Headaches are common - if they occur frequently or are already chronic (meaning that they occur more than 15 days a month for over three months), they should be checked with a doctor. As a rule, the pain stands for itself (one speaks of idiopathic headache), but sometimes it can also be a symptom of another disease.
This can be determined by a family doctor or neurologist and, of course, which type of headache you suffer from. This is important because headaches are not all treated equally. What helps with one type of headache does not work with the other. Therefore, the correct diagnosis is important.
It is advisable for the doctor to document the pain (is it stinging or dull? Is it associated with nausea? How often does it occur and in which situations? How often have pain medications been taken? Etc.). According to the DGN, tension headache and migraines are the most common types of headache. Every fifth woman and almost every twelfth man is affected by the latter.
Headache from taking painkillers too often
According to the information, chronic tension headache occurs more frequently with increasing age, men and women are affected approximately equally often. The interplay between hardened neck muscles and stress is believed to be the cause; this is also supported by the fact that the disease rate is higher in industrialized countries than in developing countries.
The tension headache is chronic when it occurs over 15 days a month, which is the case in about three percent of the population. 40 to 90 percent of the population are less often affected. It is all the more important to know what helps. Most people quickly purchase over-the-counter pain relievers, which usually also provide quick relief, but have a “horse's foot”: if they are taken too often (more than ten times a month over a quarter), they themselves cause headaches.
"It is therefore worth trying non-medicinal measures, especially since it is known that the combination of pharmacological therapy and stress management training is more successful than taking tablets alone," explains Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Diener, an internationally renowned headache expert and press spokesman for the German Society for Neurology.
[GList slug = ”10 home remedies for headache”]
Biofeedback therapy and relaxation techniques work
The guidelines classify EMG-based biofeedback therapy as effective, as do relaxation techniques (PMR) and behavioral therapy. Physiotherapy and medical training therapy are also likely to be effective.
"These methods only have long-term effects, but there is also an alternative for painkillers in the acute situation: Many people with tension headaches can use peppermint oil on their neck and temples." Another well-known home remedy for headaches is coffee with lemon. Drink a cup of espresso with half a lemon juice but no sweetener.
However, it is not possible for all patients to omit painkillers in every situation, but it is important to reduce the frequency of seizures by accompanying non-drug measures so that painkillers are not required for more than ten days a month. "Because anything beyond that can lead to a vicious cycle," says Prof. Diener.
In particularly severe cases, long-term drug therapy may be necessary, but not with painkillers, but with other medications. For example, long-term therapy with amitriptyline, a substance that actually belongs to the class of antidepressants, has proven to be effective against tension-type headaches.
Avoid known triggers
There is also the problem in migraine therapy that medicines for headaches lead to headaches. So-called triptans, tried-and-tested migraine medication, can cause medication-overuse headaches if you take more than ten days a month for at least three months.
"Therefore, people with migraines should do everything possible to reduce the number of migraine attacks by avoiding the triggers known to them and by taking seriously and consistently implementing the non-medicinal measures for seizure prophylaxis recommended in the guidelines, namely: to practice endurance sports regularly, ”says Prof. Peter Berlit, General Secretary of the DGN.
"Medicinal therapy should be supplemented by non-medicinal behavior therapy (e.g. relaxation procedures)", says the DGN guideline on "Therapy of Migraine Attacks and Prophylaxis of Migraines". The German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG) also sees it this way: "In addition to drug and interventional procedures, there are non-drug options for treating migraines, most of which come from behavioral therapy," the DMKG writes in a guideline. "Relaxation procedures (especially Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation), endurance sports and various types of biofeedback are effective in the treatment of migraines in addition to the use of cognitive behavioral therapy," it continues.
Seizure prophylaxis is not successful in all patients
"Through such seizure prophylaxis, avoiding known individual triggers, such as Visual stimuli or red wine, regular endurance sports and relaxation procedures allow many patients with migraines to lower their seizure frequency so that they do not have to take medication for more than 10 days. But if there is a migraine attack, it is important to take the tablets as early as possible, then they will be more effective, ”says Prof. Peter Berlit
Such prophylaxis is not successful in all patients, admits Professor Diener. For patients who are severely affected by the migraines, there are increasingly more treatment options.
“Various antibody therapies have been on the market since the middle of last year, which very effectively prevent migraine attacks in patients who respond to them and contribute significantly to the quality of life. However, only about half of those affected respond to the therapy. Therefore, but ultimately also because of the high therapy costs, all other options should have been exhausted before these migraine injections are used. It is important that the non-drug measures are consistently implemented for every headache illness, ”the expert concludes. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.