More than 47 million Americans have experienced a severe or debilitating headache in the past three months. Migraines alone affect 9% of the U.S. population and costs $1 billion a year in direct medical expenses.
There are the obvious choices for zapping the pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin and Aleve, for example). People with migraines often take beta blockers or antidepressants to prevent headaches, and triptans, such as Imitrex or Relpax, once symptoms start.
But if your headaches are persistent or other medications just aren’t cutting it, here are some other approaches you can consider.
Biofeedback uses electronic sensors to monitor body functions such as muscle tension, skin temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Data are fed back to the patient through sounds or computer images. The goal is to teach people how to control bodily responses—easing tight muscles, for example—to prevent headache pain.
Studies show biofeedback could be effective for migraine and tension-type headache. A recent analysis published in Headache suggests behavioral therapies, such as biofeedback, are more cost-effective over time than prescription drugs.
In acupuncture, thin needles are inserted under the skin to realign the flow of energy, or qi, in the body. In general, treatments run $60 to $120 per session, according to Acufinder.com, an acupuncture referral service.
An expert analysis, known as a Cochrane review, found acupuncture could help prevent acute migrainesas well as drug treatments do and with fewer adverse side effects. Evidence also suggests that acupuncture could help people with frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches, they say.