Natural forms of medical treatment have gained in popularity over the past couple of decades. Not only are these alternative treatments popular, but the effectiveness of many of them is supported by valid scientific research.
Many people who suffer from migraines are drawn to these types of natural treatment. Relaxation techniques, especially biofeedback, have proven to be a favorite of migraineurs.
Biofeedback is basically a formal way of learning to reduce stress by relaxing your body. It is known that stress is one of the most potent migraine triggers. Having the ability to control stress levels has been a godsend for many migraine sufferers.
Biofeedback teaches you how to control involuntary physical responses such as your heart rate and temperature. Studies have shown that this does in fact reduce the number, duration, and severity of migraines in many people.
Special equipment utilized by certified instructors monitors body functions such as skin temperature, muscle tension, sweat levels, and/or brain activity. Once you learn relaxation techniques you will be able to monitor for yourself your body's temperature rising, your breathing slowing down, and your muscles loosening.
Body temperature biofeedback is particularly useful because cold hands and/or feet, either chronically or accompanied by a migraine, is a hallmark of the migraine condition. By learning to increase your body temperature via deep breathing and visualization, stress is resisted and migraine attacks thwarted.
One of the most effective biofeedback methods is diaphragmatic breathing, a deep-breathing technique that has proven exceptionally useful for inducing relaxation. Migraineurs often see immediate results on biofeedback equipment. They learn to make a conscious connection between their physical reactions and their stress levels. After several sessions, patients can often learn to link deep breathing with warding off migraines.
Biofeedback sessions usually last from 30 minutes to an hour. Anywhere from five to 10 sessions are generally needed before you will master the diaphragmatic technique.
Biofeedback may be a good option if you don't want to take medication or if you want to reduce the amount of drugs you are using. It's very helpful if you have a medical reason for avoiding drugs. Many patients love biofeedback because they are being proactive in tackling their condition, as opposed to passively taking pills.
As with any form of alternative treatment, you should talk to your doctor before trying it. It also must be noted that biofeedback is not recommended for some people, such as diabetics, because it may block absorption of insulin.
Deep Breathing on Your Own
You can learn relaxation methods by yourself, without any biofeedback training. One of the easiest and best of these is deep breathing. There are many CDs, DVDs, and internet sites that will teach you deep breathing.
If you find yourself beginning to get stressed out – or worse, you feel a migraine attack coming on – stop what you're doing as soon as you can and take a few minutes for deep breathing. You are almost certain to feel better and you will be better equipped to handle stressful situations.
It is extremely helpful to have mastered deep breathing because it can be used for on-the-spot-problems that would normally cause you to stress out, such as a crying baby or a near-miss traffic accident. Deep breathing can be invaluable for migraineurs in high-stress situations, such as firefighters and EMTs.
In addition to reducing stress, deep breathing also provides you with extra oxygen, which your body loves. It engages your “parasympathetic nervous system,” which is the technical way of saying your relaxation system. This in turn begins to reverse your other stress responses. Skin temperature will increase, sweating will stop, and your brain will calm down.
How to Deep Breathe
Learning to deep breathe is simple but it takes some practice to master it. First, breathe slowly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count to four as you breathe in and count to six as you breathe out. Learn to breathe from down in your stomach rather than up in your chest.
Watch your belly rise and fall, but do this without hunching your shoulders or tensing your muscles. Continue breathing this way for several minutes. It is up to you – three, five, or 10 minutes are common intervals.
You will know it is having the desired effect if you feel a significant physical change in your body and mind. You should feel much more calm and relaxed. This is exactly how a migraine sufferer wants to feel, especially one for whom stress is a major trigger.
This is another easy technique that can be done anywhere. First, lie or sit down in any relaxed position and close your eyes. Beginning with your feet, tense up your muscles, then relax them. Slowly begin to move up your body to your legs.
Tense the calf muscles, then relax. Tense your thighs, then relax. Now move to your stomach, arms, and shoulders, eventually moving up to your scalp. Yes, you even want to tense the muscles in your face and head, then relax them.
This is an extremely easy technique. Get completely relaxed and comfortable. Close your eyes and think pleasant thoughts. Imagine yourself at a place that makes you the happiest. Combine this with the deep-breathing techniques you have learned for maximum effect.
Why Use Alternative?
There are several reasons people cite for choosing natural treatment. Some people are simply wary of Western medicine in general and of drugs in particular. Some people, such as women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, cannot take certain medications.
Others like to have direct control over their migraine treatment, believing they know better than anyone what works best for their unique situation.
A significant number of people are enthusiastic about the holistic approach to medical treatment. This promotes treating the entire body and mind rather than individual parts in order to create a harmonious and healthy whole.
Whatever your reason is, it is recommended that you talk to a doctor before you begin any kind of alternative treatment program. You want to be certain that there are no medical reasons for you to avoid it.