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Trying New Treatments: A Long, Long List

Physical therapy, craniosacral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, tai chi, pilates, meditation, chiropractic. While my migraines were too bad to keep appointments this fall, I kept a running list of the new treatments and therapies I’d like to try.

I have fantasies of doing nothing else than jumping in and trying all these therapies at once. They’d have to add up to more than 40 hours a week. Reality quickly usurps the fantasy: No blog, no decent meals, no organizing and downsizing. You know, all the other activities of my life.

Prioritizing treatments is more challenging than it seems.

  • My massage therapist’s physical therapist has aborted her migraines and his techniques are different than I’ve had in the past. No question I’m seeing him as soon as possible..
  • I tried a bit of craniosacral last year and the results were promising, so that’s in.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback and hypnotherapy have common threads. With my depression, cognitive behavioral therapy is the natural starting point. I expect that biofeedback and hypnotherapy will flow from that.
  • Tai chi, pilates and meditation also have similarities. I want to exercise more and learn to be mentally quiet. Pilates is more about relieving pain in my lower back, but tai chi is the perfect fit.
  • Chiropractic is last on my list. Last year’s attempt was a
    bust
    , but I’m planning to see a different chiropractor, whose approach
    is quite different than the one I saw last spring. Still, having not
    been effective in the past, I’m in no rush to try it.

Choosing one from each group leaves me with physical therapy, craniosacral, cognitive behavioral therapy and tai chi. Is that still too much? Combined with myofascial release and a yoga home practice, which are having good results, I’m afraid I’m overdoing it.

In fact, I know I am. This “narrowed” list would require appointments four days a week plus three tai chi classes. Ha! Like that’s possible. But they all seem absolutely necessary.

I’m stuck. What do you recommend?

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Hypnotism “Legitimate” Health Care Treatment

Hypnotism is becoming a more mainstream medical treatment, particularly for pain management, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter. It also has a track record of being an effective headache treatment. From the Mayo Clinic:

“A trance often can be induced most quickly in people who are in severe pain. A therapist may suggest that the pain will fade or that an area of pain will become numb. In some cases, hypnosis works as well or better than pain-relieving medications.

“Hypnosis is generally considered safe, but it only works in patients who are compliant. In other words, hypnosis can’t make people act against their own wills. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other health care providers with training in hypnosis can offer medical hypnotism. It’s important to verify that the therapist has experience in treating the medical condition, too.”

In Hypnosis: An Altered State of Consciousness, another Mayo Clinic article, hypnosis and its application to health care is well-described, including what it is, who it’s for, how it works. It also debunks common myths.

The emphasis placed on finding a good provider got my attention. One article says that you should be as careful in finding a hypnotherapist as you are in choosing a doctor.

Hypnosis as a practice is not regulated in most states, so it pays to be very careful when selecting a therapist. Certified lay
hypnotherapists are individuals who have completed 200 or more hours of training in hypnosis but don’t have additional professional health care training. Licensed health care professionals who practice hypnotherapy, such as psychologists, doctors and social workers, are trained in
hypnosis in addition to their university training.

Apply the same care in choosing a hypnotherapist as you would a doctor. Ask someone you trust for recommendations. When you find a potential hypnotherapist, ask questions such as:

  • Do you have training in a field such as psychology, medicine, social work or dentistry?
  • Are you licensed in your specialty in this state?
  • Where did you go to school, and where did you do your internship, residency or both?
  • If you’re a lay hypnotist, how much training have you had and from what school?
  • What professional organizations do you belong to?
  • How long have you been in practice?
  • What are your fees?

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Psychological Treatments for Pain

Even though your headaches aren’t “all in your head,” your mind can be a powerful tool for easing them. A study shows that biofeedback or cognitive-behavioral therapy can reduce back pain by about 30%. I assume that headache sufferers could have similar results.

Biofeedback has long been recommended to treat migraine and tension-type headaches, but studies show that it is not helpful for cluster headaches. This article from the Robbins Headache Clinic‘s website is a little technical, but is the best explanation I’ve found on why and how biofeedback treats headaches.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy provided greater relief to participants in the back pain study than did biofeedback. According to the article, this approach “teaches patients to divert their attention from pain and to think about it in a less alarming manner.” Since cognitive-behavioral therapy works to change overall thinking patterns, I wonder if it, unlike biofeedback, could be helpful for cluster headache sufferers.

I know I shouldn’t, but I still balk at such treatments (like with hypnosis). As if my headaches would be proven to be psychological if I were able to use my mind to relieve them. Yet I’ve been doing relaxation exercises during migraines for years. Like it or not, my mind has been involved the whole time.

Do you do biofeedback or other relaxation techniques? What does or doesn’t work for you?

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World Hypnotism Day

While the name World Hypnotism Day sparks images of everyone walking around like zombies, I suspect there’s more to hypnosis than what I saw on Three’s Company. Shedding the stereotypes I was mired in, I learned that hypnosis is helpful for headaches because it encourages relaxation and reduces stress. However, it doesn’t appear to be more effective than any other relaxation technique

Thus far studies have shown that the usefulness of hypnosis depends on the type of headache a person has. Tension-type headache sufferers trained in self-hypnosis had modest improvement compared to those who recorded their headaches during a study, according to an ACHE article. The same article says that behavioral treatments for migraine, like biofeedback, are useful, but hypnosis alone has not shown to be beneficial. Both ACHE and the National Headache Foundation say that hypnosis is not effective for cluster headaches.

I’ve never tried hypnosis, but am willing to. Since my headaches are caused by migraine, though, I think I should try biofeedback first. If you’ve tried hypnosis, was it helpful for you? Even if you haven’t, I’d like to know what you think of hypnosis for headaches.

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Headache Blog Buzz

These posts from other headache bloggers have caught my eye recently.

Grief
Terri of Wind Lost has written a beautiful post about grief. I’m not posting an excerpt here because the photo that accompanies the post is vital to what she’s written.

Have You Tried _______ Treatment?
When someone first learns that I have migraine, they always ask, “Have you tried [insert amazing treatment that that person’s neighbor’s daugther had great success with]?” Chiropractic care pops up most often, but hypnosis is also on the list. On Headaches and Movies Laura describes her visit to a hypnotherapist.

“My Pain is Worse Than Yours”
Artin’s co-workers have been trying to one-up him on their medical troubles. I don’t know what other ailments, but what he describes as “red-hot-railroad-spike-through-to-my-frontal-lobe discomfort” sounds pretty bad to me.

So many headache blogs are up now that I usually only get to skim them and I miss a lot. If you’ve written a post that you think The Daily Headache readers would enjoy, e-mail me about it. And if you’re a new blogger that’s not listed on my blogroll, let me know about it and I’ll add your blog.