Complementary Therapies for Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines are an extremely common problem, with headaches affecting around 50% of the world population, and migraines up to 1 in 7 people worldwide.

Many people take over-the-counter medicines to relieve headaches and migraines. If symptoms worsen, most people will see a doctor about their headaches. Doctors are often able to do little more than prescribe more painkillers, or refer to a neurologist to rule out neurological issues. This leaves many people looking for alternatives, and various complementary and wellness therapies are available for headaches and migraines. In this article we will examine some of those therapies and how they can help you.


The first thing to be considered in avoiding headaches and migraines is your general wellbeing. If you are regularly suffering from head pain or migraines, start by thinking about your general lifestyle and whether there is any way you can help yourself.

Starting with your diet, try to eat healthily and avoid any foods which could trigger your headaches. These typically include caffeine, additives, sugars and refined or processed food. Avoid smoking and alcohol and take regular exercise, all of which will help maintain healthy blood flow to the brain. Ensure also that you get enough rest and sleep, and avoid stress as far as possible. 

Acupuncture & Acupressure

Acupuncture (inserting very thin needles into the skin) is a very popular treatment for migraines. Acupuncture points can stimulate the nervous system, causing chemicals to be released into the muscles, spinal cord and brain which can aid in healing and pain relief. Scientific studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in reducing migraines, but the effects vary from person to person, and what is effective for one person might not be so effective for another.

Acupressure is also a popular self-treatment for headaches. Whereas acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into certain points on the body, with acupressure you massage these points yourself, meaning you can treat your own headache or migraine.


Osteopathy is a holistic therapy which works with the musculoskeletal system. Practitioners use techniques such as spinal manipulation, massage and myofascial release to realign the spine and reduce tension in muscles and joints.

For headaches and migraines, this can help to reduce tension in the neck and head which can be a contributing factor. A good practitioner will be able to assess you and explain exactly where stress or misalignment in the neck or head could be a cause of your headaches or migraines. Many practitioners also combine osteopathy and acupuncture for migraine relief.

You may also be able to find similar benefits from related therapies, such as massage therapy, which also reduce tension in the muscles of the neck or head.

Yoga and Meditation

You may also want to try activities like yoga and meditation. Yoga, pilates or similar activities can help to reduce muscular tension and improve blood flow to the body, whilst meditation or similar techniques can help to reduce stress and improve general relaxation, all of which can help to reduce headache and migraine symptoms.

Herbal Remedies

Lastly, some people find various herbal or traditional remedies to be effective in soothing their headache or in complementing other forms of treatment. Simple home remedies include ginger and peppermint teas, valerian root and lavender. Results vary from person to person so experiment and see if you find you experience a reduction in symptoms.