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National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

NCCAM Clinical Digest

Headaches and Complementary Health Practices

November 2011
A woman holds her head in pain.

Headaches are one of the most common forms of pain. More than 45 million Americans have headaches severe enough to require the help of a health care professional. Headaches occur when pain-sensitive nerve endings around the scalp, in the blood vessels that surround the skull, in the lining around the brain, and in other areas around the head send impulses to the part of the brain that interprets pain signals from the rest of the body. Some headaches are related to tender spots in head, neck, and shoulder muscles.

Researchers are studying treatments for different types of headaches, including a number of complementary health practices. This issue provides information on "what the science says" about the effectiveness and safety of selected complementary health practices for headaches, including relaxation training, biofeedback, acupuncture, tai chi, cognitive-behavioral therapy, massage, spinal manipulation, and dietary supplements.

Scientific Literature

NCCAM Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, DHHS. NCCAM Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on CAM, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCAM-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at nccam.nih.gov. NCCAM is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

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