We want to make sure we can get the best therapy we can find when we have a chronic disease. Often, it's not just one modality, such as medication, that will give us headache and migraine freedom, but multiple used together.
When we understand that we are made up of many different parts, that are all connected and dependent on each other, we are much more successful. Using a holistic therapy means looking at the whole person and addressing the mind and body causes that raise our trigger levels and lead to flares.
Here are eight holistic therapies that I've found work well for migraines.
1. Holistic nutrition
Without eating the right foods we cannot be healthy. Holistic nutrition is a way we look at the whole person and understand that everyone's individual nutritional needs are different. Needs can change based on ethnicity, stress load, exercise level, time of year, menstrual cycle, illness, and digestive capacity. This means that there is no one right diet, and our body is constantly changing in its needs for nutrients.
For example, if I am laying around for a week, not moving much and staying in my air-conditioned house, my body doesn’t need much protein or fruit. The lack of exercise means there isn’t much tissue to repair, which means low protein needs. However, if I am outside all day in the summer and really pumping and heating my body through high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts and lifting heavy weights, my body absolutely needs the protein to repair, and fruit to stay cool.
If you listen to your body, it will tell you what it wants. When we can learn to apply holistic nutrition principles to our daily activities, we can counteract all of the stress forced on to us by life. Everyone should learn the basics of nutrition for their type. Find a holistic nutritionist online here.
2. Cranio-sacral therapy
Cranio-sacral therapy is an extremely gentle technique using light touch (about the weight of a nickel) to release pressure in the skull. Most people think our skull is actually one solid bone, but it actually has a small amount of give. Cranio-sacral therapists use this technique to release pressure in the skull and give relief to headache and migraine sufferers and to people who suffer from other neurological issues. Find a cranio-sacral therapist near you.
3. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been well studied for migraines and has been recommended as a line-one therapy for migraines. The majority of patients indicated that the mind and body relaxation skills of CBT-HA (deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and activity pacing, in particular) were the most helpful and most frequently used skills. CBT focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that try to solve current problems and change unhelpful patterns in cognitions. The reason we should think of it for our migraines is because it can help us deal with the significant amount of mental and emotional stresses that we come up against.
There aren’t many chronic migraine sufferers that don’t feel emotionally overwhelmed. This is a great therapy to engage in during the beginning of your healing journey so that you can learn effective coping skills to prevent triggers. Find a cognitive behavioral therapist near you.
4. NUCCA chiropractic
I know many migraine sufferers that swear by their chiropractors, who typically have a wider knowledge base and are more familiar with alternative therapies than traditional doctors. A NUCCA (National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association) chiropractor is a specialist. They concentrate in the vertebrae at the top of the neck.
They aren’t like the standard chiropractor that is known for “snapping” you into place. They are very gentle, use calculated adjustments, and are skilled at realigning the atlas, a small vertebrae at the very top of your neck that holds your head. This vertebrae is special because it's not actually held in place like the others. It's "floating," which makes it very susceptible to being shifted out of place if you get into an accident.
If the vertebrae shift, it can pinch the spinal cord, which will affect all the signals coming down the rest of the body. If your body can't send messages to its parts, everything starts to go haywire. That's one reason why I recommend seeing a NUCCA, especially if you have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), your shoulders or hips are off tilt, or even if you find one side of your body is significantly stronger than the other. You can find a NUCCA chiropractor here.
5. Functional medicine
Functional medicine practitioners look much deeper and see the whole picture. They take the time to listen to you and run many lab tests.
Have you ever thought that a parasitic infection could cause headaches? I see it all the time. A functional medicine practitioner will help you figure out why you got it and what to do about it. Have you ever connected your hormones to your migraines? Functional medicine practitioners are great at running lab tests, and teaching you how to balance your hormones without being stuck on medication for ever.
If you feel like you’ve been to every specialist and tried everything, then make sure you get a good functional medicine practitioner to run a set of panels. You won't be disappointed. You can find a functional medicine practitioner near you here.
Acupuncture works on changing the flow of messages through your body and helps your body function in a more balanced way. When our body can function better, it is much more resistant to triggers and flares.
Acupuncture has been well researched. Some studies suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as, or possibly more effective, than prophylactic drug treatment and has fewer adverse effects. If you have exhausted the mainstream options and haven’t found relief, this is definitely a route to try. You can find an acupuncturist here.
7. Homeopathic medicine
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of medicine that uses small doses of substances that give the nervous system a boost in its functioning so that it can restore balance. Homeopathic medicines are great for chronic symptoms like fatigue, sensitivities, and mood swings as well as acute symptoms of attacks or flares of migraines.
One study found that 47 cases (62 percent) showed marked improvement (no migraine attacks for six months) of their ailments, 21 cases (or 28 percent) showed improvement, whereas only eight cases (approximately 11 percent) remained status quo. Homeopathy's great safety profile means it can be used with headaches and migraines for both children and the elderly, and during pregnancy and lactation. You can find a homeopath near you here.
8. Lifestyle coaching
Depending on your situation, you may want an actual “life” coach to help you deal with the mental and emotional rollercoaster that life is. However, a "lifestyle" coach is different. He or she is someone who can teach you how to optimize your environment so that it's not loading your body up with toxins and stress.
As of 2014, there were between 25,000-84,000 synthetic chemicals in our environment. They don’t just disappear. When we take them in, whether it be through breathing, drinking, eating, or bathing, our liver has to detoxify them so that they don't cause harm to our bodies. This causes a load on our systems, causing stress. The more stress, the higher our trigger levels are – a process called nociception. High trigger levels mean lots of inflammation and vulnerability in our systems.
These lifestyle coaches wrap up the entire holistic puzzle. They teach us how to breath properly so that we aren't putting pressure on our necks; how to detox through our five main methods of eliminating waste; how to make our environment actually support us, instead of adding more pressure; how to create goals and get there; and how to regulate our hormones and circadian cycles. Lifestyle coaches can help you break everything down into manageable pieces and build your health back up.
When you can look at yourself as a whole person and assess your mental, emotional, physical, dietary, environmental, social and cultural parts, you can get a clearer picture of what the actual source of the pain is. Then you can deal with the cause, not just symptoms. These holistic therapies work wonders for migraines because they address the root causes behind them.