Health Topics

Beyond Stress and Relaxation Strategies: Alternative Approaches For Managing Headaches

Tips to Help Manage Headache Pain

With the exception of physical therapy, many of the headache treatment approaches discussed below represent nontraditional therapies being used to manage head pain in the United States. Since most physicians today are open to consideration of alternative treatments, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about referring you to a qualified alternative health practitioner.

Alternative Headache Treatments

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a medical discipline that deals with the muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body. Physical therapy can be very helpful for headaches that originate in the muscles or joints of the neck. Patients who have migraines or tension-type headaches may have their headache pain brought on by neck strain and therefore may benefit from physical therapy.

Massage Therapy

Massage has become a popular approach for relieving chronic pain, easing muscle tension and for promoting relaxation. People with headaches triggered by muscle tension, poor posture or emotional stress or anxiety might benefit from massage therapy.


Hypnosis uses a blend of relaxation, imagery and the power of suggestion to achieve a heightened sense of relaxation. Headache relief is achieved through deep relaxation and posthypnotic suggestion.

Chiropractic Manipulation

Chiropractics is a form of treatment involving spinal manipulation. It has been claimed that migraine, tension-type headache and post-traumatic headache may benefit from this technique.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine and controls pain by the skilled placement of small, sharp needles along select points on the body. It is thought that stimulation of the acupuncture points results in the release of endorphins - the body’s natural pain reliever.

Acupressure follows the same principles as acupuncture but replaces needles with the application of physical pressure.


Aromatherapy involves the distillation of essential oils from plants inhaled or absorbed through the skin in the form of ointments, compresses or aromatic baths.


Yoga, a Hindu-based practice for achieving mental and physical relaxation through stretching, breathing and meditation exercises, can be a stress-reducing outlet that enhances your health and well-being.

Magnesium and Riboflavin

There is some scientific evidence showing that the mineral magnesium given daily either alone or with a daily dose of riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2) can reduce migraine frequency. Ask your doctor about this treatment option.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring substance found in the body’s tissues, in many foods, and can also be made into a supplement. Coenzyme Q10 is also being studied in cancer treatment, in the relief of side effects caused by some cancer treatments and has been shown in trials to be an effective preventive treatment for migraine.

Two-Minute Relaxation Exercise

Turn your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped, such as your shoulders or neck. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel more relaxed now.