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The Weill Cornell Medicine Headache Program takes a holistic, patient-centered approach that incorporates lifestyle changes, medical therapies, and complimentary care. Once the type of headache is diagnosed, our specialists put together a personalized care plan.

A personalized care plan may include:

  • Preventative strategies
  • Acute pain management
  • Advanced headache treatments, including BOTOX® procedures, nerve blocks and infusion protocols
  • Lifestyle guidance to reduce headache frequency and severity
  • Opportunity to participate in clinical trials
  • Referrals to biofeedback, acupuncture, physical therapy, nutritionist, cognitive behavioral therapy and massage

Occasionally, patients find that headaches will not resolve using acute treatment and they may become stuck in a “cycle” of pain. 

There are different methods of treating a headache cycle, depending on the primary headache type, medications taken, duration of the cycle, and the severity of symptoms. Treatment strategies may include:

  • Oral, nasal, or injected medications, such as nerve blocks
  • Intravenous medications (given in extreme cases while hospitalized) 
Acute Treatments

Although there are specific treatments for different types of headache, there are certain common medications that can be taken to provide immediate relief for migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches.  

  • Migraine-specific “triptan” medications are commonly used to treat migraine and cluster headaches. 
  • Anti-nausea medication, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as naproxen) and muscle relaxants may be used in moderation.  

These medications provide temporary, symptomatic relief, but do not prevent future attacks. All medications can have side effects and must be chosen in accordance with other medical conditions and other medications taken.

Preventive Treatments

For patients experiencing frequent headaches, preventive approaches are often recommended.  These approaches help reduce the frequency and intensity of headache attacks making headaches more manageable.

Preventive treatments include:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Botox injections, which are proven to help prevent chronic migraines
  • Lifestyle changes and complementary care including naturopathic treatments 
Complementary Medicine

In addition to promoting lifestyle changes and prescribing traditional medical treatments, the Headache Program also refers patients, when appropriate, to specialists that practice complementary medicine. In particular, we refer to qualified biofeedback and acupuncture practitioners. 

Biofeedback: This process empowers individuals by making them more aware of their body to help remedy a health condition or simply aid with relaxation. Biofeedback therapy uses electronic instruments to monitor and provide information about your body’s physiological functions that you unconsciously control, like breathing and your heart rate.  

This process helps improve awareness of key biological functions so that you can consciously control them. By using the equipment, you can train your nervous system to react with relaxation instead of stress, helping you gain more control over many physical and mental health problems, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, tension-type headaches and migraines. 

Acupuncture: This Chinese therapeutic treatment has been in use for thousands of years to treat pain but has only been more recently integrated into care plans by Western physicians. 

According to the National Institute of Health, acupuncture can be of considerable value to patients and is worth establishing into conventional medicine. The World Health Organization recommends acupuncture to treat migraines and a 2009 Cochrane Review has shown that this acupunctural therapy can provide treatment to patients who suffer from tension-type and migraine headaches. 

During treatment, thin needles are inserted into a patient’s body at predetermined points to help alleviate pain.

Naturopathic Treatments: Several supplements have been shown to be beneficial for headache prevention, including Vitamin B2, Magnesium, Co-enzyme Q10, Feverfew, and others.