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Something About February

For the last three Februaries, I’ve been inspired to consider new ways to manage my CDH and migraine. Maybe it’s that this month usually gives a reprieve from the rain. After two months in hiding, a visit from sunshine and blue skies inspire people throughout the city. (You may think I’m being melodramatic, but it’s hard to believe until you see it.)

This year I’m revisiting naturopathic medicine. After trying numerous treatments with no success, I had stopped considering this option. Then I realized that conventional medicine hasn’t done much better. It’s taken a while to get here because I’m rooted in the beliefs of Western medicine. I’m more open to the idea now that I’m no longer seeking something to rid me of pain. It feels more like an adventure, not a desperate attempt for relief.

Next Thursday I have a 90-minute long first visit, where I’ll meet with a care team. We’ll formulate a plan for my treatment — which could include dietary changes, supplements, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, homeopathy and biofeedback — and decide what happens next.

Studies of acupuncture and other complementary therapies indicate that the treatments themselves don’t seem to help much, but that patients feel better because they receive personal attention from caring providers. Even if it’s a sort of placebo effect, I’m fine with anything that makes me feel better or more relaxed.

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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.”