Continually taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can make your headaches worse over a long period of time. The result of NSAID overuse is a rebound headache, which compounds your existing headache.
Some interesting studies have compared the effectiveness of spinal manipulative treatment and Amitriptyline therapy for chronic tension and migraine headaches. Amitriptyline, also known as Elavil, is a widely used tricyclic antidepressant and is often used to treat migraine and chronic tension headaches. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amitriptyline
A study titled “Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension-type headaches: a randomized clinical trial” 1 published in 1995 concluded that “spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches. Amitriptyline therapy was slightly more effective in reducing pain at the end of the treatment period but was associated with more side effects. Four weeks after the cessation of treatment, however, the patients who received spinal manipulative therapy experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in all major outcomes in contrast to the patients that received amitriptyline therapy, who reverted to baseline values. The sustained therapeutic benefit associated with spinal manipulation seemed to result in a decreased need for over-the-counter medication.”
Another study titled “The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headache” 2 published in 1998 concluded that “There was no advantage to combining amitriptyline and spinal manipulation for the treatment of migraine headache. Spinal manipulation seemed to be as effective as a well-established and efficacious treatment (amitriptyline), and on the basis of a benign side effects profile, it should be considered a treatment option for patients with frequent migraine headaches.”
In practice, I have found that dealing with triggers for headaches is extremely important as well. If your headaches are brought on by stress, yoga therapy, meditation or exercise can be extremely important. If your headaches are brought on by low blood sugar, regulating your caloric intake and food choices can be crucial. Natural prophylactic therapy for migraines with minerals, vitamins and herbal supplements can be as effective as prescription medication. Some of my patients have had complete relief of their migraines and chronic tension headaches from a combination of spinal manipulative therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle management. For others, the reduction of the intensity and frequency of the headaches is considered a success.
I recommend you see a neurologist first if you haven’t had your headache properly diagnosed, and then consider some complementary alternative medicine!
- Boline PD, Kassak K, Bronfort G, Nelson C, Anderson AV.Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension-type headaches: a randomized clinical trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Mar-Apr;18(3):148-54.
- Nelson CF, Bronfort G, Evans R, Boline P, Goldsmith C, Anderson AV. The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1998 Oct;21(8):511-9.