Migraineur’s Guide to CAM - Introduction

Hang around a group of migraineurs long enough and someone will bring up Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Many of us have tried Feverfew, Butterbur, Vitamin B2, Magnesium, CoQ10, and a whole host of other natural remedies. The presence of so many dietary triggers causes us to choose wholesome foods, lots of water, and avoid processed or artificial foods. Some even find relief from special diets. In short, migraineurs are good candidates for CAM. We're also pretty well-educated health consumers. If we are to become responsible consumers of CAM products and services, we must learn to distinguish the different specialties and understand the scope of their expertise. Like any other health care providers, they have their strengths and weaknesses.

In this CAM series, I’d like to cover several modalities that you may want to consider when thinking about alternatives. My family operated a health food store online from 1997 to 2005. From 2002-2005, we also managed a brick-and-mortar health food store. I have tried many of the options we will be discussing. With a few exceptions, the treatments covered are unregulated by state or federal agencies. If you choose to participate in CAM, it is critical that you do your research and know what to expect. Many of these methods originate with cultures that think very differently about health and sickness than what we have come to expect in Western cultures. Understanding their views will help you make sense of the claims.

In order to understand the information in this series, there are a few terms you need to know:

  • Conventional medicine - modern Western medical practices
  • Traditional medicine - cultural, historical, or ancient medical practices
  • Complementary medicine - a combination of traditional and conventional medicine
  • Alternative medicine - the use of traditional medicine in lieu of conventional medicine
  • Integrative medicine - a combination of conventional medicine and traditional practices that are supported by clinical studies

General disclaimer:

I have a lot of experience with CAM, some good, some bad. I will be sharing some of those experiences throughout the series as they relate to headache disorders. I also have specialized training in a few modalities. My views about CAM are not necessarily those of Migraine.com or Health Union, LLC or its executive staff. As always, before starting any new therapy, exercise program, or dietary change, please check with your doctor first.

Areas to be covered:


State licensed/certified therapies

  • Naturopathic medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Chiropractic
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Myofascial Release therapy
  • Cranio-Sacral therapy

Traditional Medicine

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Ayurvedic Medicine

Exercise & Meditation

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Qi Gong
  • Kundalini Yoga
  • Zen Meditation
  • Transcendental™ Meditation
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
  • Guided Meditation

Plant-based Medicine

  • Herbalism
  • Aromatherapy
  • Bach Flower Therapy

Touch therapy & energy work

  • Reiki
  • Therapeutic Touch
  • Craniosacral Therapy
  • Quantum Energetics
  • Reflexology

CAM diagnostic tools

  • Applied Kinesiology
  • Iridology
  • Saliva testing
  • pH testing
  • Hair analysis

Remember that very few of these healing methods have been subjected to rigorous clinical study. That does not mean that they are not effective. There are a few reasons why clinical trials have not been performed:

  1. The healing method is not easily tested using current clinical trials.
  2. There is a lack of interest in studying a given method.
  3. There is no financial incentive to conduct studies on CAM.
  4. There is a bias against certain "unscientific" claims.

You will discover that CAM practitioners generally speak in terms of "healing" or "the body's natural healing abilities" rather than in terms of "cure". Their views are often very different from what we are used to. If you choose to try a CAM method, be prepared for a cultural adjustment as you discover this new way of thinking about health.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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