Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults With Migraines/Severe Headaches

Authors

  • Rebecca Erwin Wells MD, MPH,

    Corresponding author
      R.E. Wells, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Email: rwells@bidmc.harvard.edu
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  • Suzanne M. Bertisch MD, MPH,

    1. From the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (R.E. Wells); Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (S.M. Bertisch, C. Buettner, R.S. Phillips, and E.P. McCarthy).
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  • Catherine Buettner MD, MPH,

    1. From the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (R.E. Wells); Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (S.M. Bertisch, C. Buettner, R.S. Phillips, and E.P. McCarthy).
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  • Russell S. Phillips MD,

    1. From the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (R.E. Wells); Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (S.M. Bertisch, C. Buettner, R.S. Phillips, and E.P. McCarthy).
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  • Ellen P. McCarthy PhD, MPH

    1. From the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (R.E. Wells); Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA (S.M. Bertisch, C. Buettner, R.S. Phillips, and E.P. McCarthy).
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  • Financial support: Dr. Wells was supported by an institutional National Research Service Award Number T32AT000051 from the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Bertisch was supported by K23 AT005104-02 from NCCAM. Dr. Buettner was supported by K23 AR055664 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease. Dr. Phillips was supported by a Mid-Career Investigator Award K24AT000589 and Dr. McCarthy was supported by R03AT002236, also from NCCAM. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NCCAM or the National Institutes of Health.

  • Conflicts of Interests: Dr. Wells reports no conflicts of interest. Dr. Bertisch reports no conflicts of interest. Dr. Buettner reports speaking at Harvard Medical School Continuing Medical Education and hospital affiliated programs focused on guiding health care providers on judging the evidence on, and assessing the risks and benefits of, herbs and dietary supplements in clinical practice. She has received honorarium for some of these programs (total <$500/year). Dr. Phillips reports no conflicts of interest. Dr. McCarthy reports no conflicts of interest.

R.E. Wells, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Email: rwells@bidmc.harvard.edu

Abstract

(Headache 2011;51:1087-1097)

Objective.— Our objective was to determine patterns, reasons for, and correlates of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by US adults with migraines/severe headaches.

Background.— While many patients with chronic conditions use CAM, little is known about CAM use by adults with migraines/severe headaches.

Methods.— We compared CAM use between adults with and without self-reported migraines/severe headaches using the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (n = 23,393), a national cross-sectional survey.

Results.— Adults with migraines/severe headaches used CAM more frequently than those without (49.5% vs 33.9%, P < .0001); differences persisted after adjustment (adjusted odds ratio = 1.29, 95% confidence interval [1.15, 1.45]). Mind–body therapies (eg, deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga) were used most commonly. More than 50% of adults with migraines/severe headaches reporting CAM use had not discussed it with their health care provider. Nonetheless, those with migraines/severe headaches used CAM more often than those without because of provider recommendation and because conventional treatments were perceived as ineffective or too costly. Correlates of CAM use among adults with migraines/severe headaches included anxiety, joint or low back pain, alcohol use, higher education, and living in the western USA. Only 4.5% of adults with migraines/severe headaches reported using CAM to specifically treat their migraines/severe headaches.

Conclusions.— CAM is used more often among adults with migraines/severe headaches than those without. However, few report using CAM to specifically treat migraines/severe headaches. Mind–body therapies are used most frequently. Further research is needed to understand the effectiveness and mechanisms of CAM treatments in adults with migraines/severe headaches.

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