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A Naturopathic Medicine Primer

While many headache sufferers consider naturopathic medicine, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Certain supplements are highly touted, but there’s so much more to it. Naturopath Stephanie Draus describes how naturopathic doctors (NDs) practice and how to find an ND in your area.

In describing the six guiding principles of naturopathic medicine, Stephanie writes, “You see, it isn’t so much the natural methods we use that make us different; it is the way we work with our patients.”

To read more about Stephanie’s approach to naturopathic medicine, visit Nature Goddess Speaks, her new blog.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides an in-depth look at the many types and treatments of alternative medicine.

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Meditation for Pain

Transcendental meditation may change the brain’s reaction to pain, according to a study in the August issue of the journal NeuroReport. The study compared the brain scans of people who had practiced transcendental meditation for 30 years to 12 participants who had only an introductory course in the technique. The brain scans of long-time meditators showed 40-50% less activity in response to acute pain than did the scans of newbies’ brains.

However, both groups rated their pain levels the same. Maybe I’m missing some bigger picture thing here, but I don’t care how my brain responds to pain if it still feels the same.

Before I go any further, you should know that transcendental meditation is a specific technique. It is only taught be certified experts and, oh yeah, a four-day course costs $2,500.

This isn’t to say that meditation isn’t effective for pain control, just that I’m skeptical that this is the best technique for it. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (only a government agency could have such an outrageously long name) provides a comprehensive look at meditation for health. Although the article doesn’t discuss headache specifically, the information is still relevant.

NCCAM describes two approaches to meditation; transcendental and mindfulness mediations. Mindfulness meditation is what’s taught all over the place, including yoga studios, on CDs and tapes, and even online (Google learn mindfulness meditation for links).

In any case, it’s certainly worth a try. No bodily harm can come of it, and, even if it doesn’t reduce perceived pain, it can help calm you down during a severe headache and possibly reduce your baseline stress level.

Meditation is something I’ve been thinking about trying for a long time, but attempts are easily thwarted (what a great word). I think am in-person class might be the right choice for me. Are any of you meditators? What benefits do you gain from it?

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The Appeal of Nontraditional Therapies

The longer someone lives with a headache disorder, the easier it becomes to recognize that there will never be a magic pill to alleviate your pain. Without that miraculous concoction from a pharmaceutical company, Western medicine provides meager solutions for headaches. Some docs do address potential trigger foods or relaxation therapies, but often as an afterthought.

It’s no wonder that nontraditional therapies have such a strong appeal. Whether the treatments are diet and relaxation, practices of Eastern medicine, or too-good-to-be-true promises of healing, any sense of hope is all that we need.

Perhaps more important than the therapies themselves is the promise of establishing an emotional connection with the practitioners. We want to be listened to and cared for as individuals. We are not headaches attached to bodies, but are people for whom headaches are just one part of our multifaceted lives.

In When Trust in Doctors Erodes, Other Treatments Fill the Void, The New York Times explores why so many people are drawn to alternative medicine.

“In interviews and surveys, patients [who use nontraditional therapies] often described prescription drugs as poisons that mostly mask symptoms without improving their underlying cause…”

“From here it is a small step to begin doubting medical science. If Western medicine is imperfect and sometimes corrupt, then mainstream doctors may not be the best judge of treatments after all, many patients conclude. People’s actual experience — the personal testimony of friends and family, in particular — feels more truthful…”

“In recent years, people searching for something outside of conventional medicine have increasingly turned to naturopaths, herbal specialists who must complete a degree that includes some standard medical training in order to be licensed, experts say. Fourteen states, including California and Connecticut, now license naturopaths to practice medicine. Natural medicine groups are pushing for similar legislation in other states, including New York.”

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July 12th News

I planned to do a quick check of the news this morning before I ran out the door and then post later. There are too many interesting stories to do that, so here they are.

What Really Works?
“Out of frustration with conventional medicine or in hopes of preventing or treating disease, health consumers continue to turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs and supplements.

“But of the many treatments in the rapidly growing, frequently bewildering field, what really works? With little gold-standard evidence to go by, that’s been a hard question to answer. Long-standing attempts to perform high-quality research continue.”

NMT Medical Completes MIST Migraine Study Enrollment
“‘Completing patient enrollment in our MIST trial is a significant accomplishment for NMT, especially considering that we are ahead of our initial schedule by two full quarters. The overwhelming response we received since initiation of the trial suggests that current medical therapy is not working for many migraine sufferers, and alternative treatments are necessary.'”

Prices Drive up Health Costs in US
“‘There is a popular misconception that we pay much more for health care in the United States compared to European and other industrialized countries because malpractice claims drive up costs and there are waiting lists in most other countries,’ said Gerard Anderson, who led the study.

“‘But what we found is that we pay more for health care for the simple reason that prices for health services are significantly higher in the United States than they are elsewhere,’ he added in a statement.”