Traditional Chinese acupuncture and so-called "sham" acupuncture achieved roughly the same results in preventing migraine, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and widely reported by several news outlets. Acupuncture is frequently used to treat migraine, and the purpose of the study was to determine if migraine-specific acupuncture points were more effective than other acupuncture points and sham acupuncture.

By Alexander Mauskop, M.D., FAAN Director, New York Headache Center, New York, NY Parents of kids with headache frequently ask about complementary and alternative approaches, hoping to avoid prescription medications and their associated side effects. As it turns out, scientific studies have shown that many of these alternative treatments can be beneficial in reducing headaches, with very few side effects. Taking these factors into account, the treatments described below are worth trying by most, if not all, headache sufferers. However, before considering any kind of medication, whether conventional or alternative, the first step is to make sure that the child has healthy habits. Parents and children, especially adolescents, should be counseled about the importance of regular and nutritious meals without any caffeine, chocolate or other known dietary migraine triggers. Frequent exercise and regular sleeping patterns are also important factors in decreasing headaches. Stress is a major contributor to headaches, even in young children. One of the best treatments for migraine and tension-type headaches is biofeedback. Many studies have shown that biofeedback works well, with long-lasting benefits. However, similar and less expensive techniques, such as self-taught progressive relaxation and meditation, work equally well. The advantage of biofeedback is that a biofeedback therapist can make the learning process easier and can act as a coach and motivator.

Q. I am a frequent migraine sufferer and have had no luck in finding a treatment that works for me. I've had massage therapy, acupuncture, and been to my primary care doctor and a neurologist. I've been on a daily preventive (Topamax®), which did nothing for the headaches, but did make me sick! I now take Maxalt® when I feel a bad migraine coming on, but it doesn't work as well as it did when I first started taking it. Is there something else I can try? I'm ready to bang my head against a wall!

Adding acupuncture to your strategies for headache prevention may be beneficial, especially for people who suffer from chronic headaches, according to German researchers who completed one of the largest studies so far on using acupuncture to treat headache. Their results were published in the September issue of the journal Cephalalgia.

Acupuncture originated in China some 3,000 years ago. Although widely used in Europe since early in this century and universally acclaimed for its pain-relieving qualities, it has been of interest in the United States for a much shorter time.