For the majority of headaches, there is no laboratory or radiology test to determine the kind of headache it is, nor is there a way to know which treatment will work. Two patients may describe their head pain almost identically yet what works for one does not work for the other, and vice versa.
What constitutes an effective treatment?
Any intervention that improves the headache in terms of frequency, severity, or duration, without unwelcome side effects, has value. The term treatment is not limited to any particular modality and may include medications, bodywork, complementary medicine, counseling, and education. If a therapeutic approach is safe for the patient, it should be considered.
The main treatment plan categories used to manage headaches include:
Rescue – treatment when a headache is staring you in the face
Prevention – treatments aimed at keeping headaches from developing
Lifestyle modification – strategies to identify, modify, and eliminate triggers that can contribute to headache
Complementary medicine strategies
In general, Western and complementary medicines can be integrated together in a treatment plan, but all plans should be developed and discussed with your treatment team. Whether complementary approaches are appropriate for a particular patient depends on a variety of things including the patient, diagnosis, insurance and financial issues, and practitioner skill and experience. Additionally, relatively few medications are actually FDA-approved for migraine rescue or prevention.