Medications and Procedures
If medications and procedures don’t work, there are other options you can use to treat NDPH. Although you may be skeptical, there is evidence that several complementary or holistic practices such as meditation, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, physical therapy, and biofeedback can help reduce pain from NDPH. It often helps to take a “whole body” approach and look for lifestyle things you can fix. These approaches tend to be fairly low-cost without many side effects, so they’re worth a try.
Physical Therapy & Chiropractic
Several chiropractic techniques, including Atlas Orthogonal and NUCCA claim to help treat “upper cervical dysfunction.” Be careful when pursuing chiropractic treatment for NDPH, as there is limited evidence of its effectiveness, and it can often be harmful.
Acupuncture, Dry Needling, & Trigger Points
It is also worth investigating certain trigger points in the head and neck that are known to refer pain to certain areas of the head. Common trigger point spots include the suboccipital muscles, upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and splenius capitis. The Trigger Point & Referred Pain Guide and The Complete Guide to Trigger Point websites are particularly useful resources on trigger points.
Neurostimulation devices use a mild electric current to disrupt pain signals. They usually involve putting electrodes in specific places on your head/neck and then adjusting the current intensity until the pain is diminished or relieved. Examples of these devices are:
Mind-Body Approaches/ Neuroplasticity
Although it may seem a little “off the wall,” some pain management techniques focus on the connection between the mind and body, looking at pain as a biopsychosocial phenomenon with many causal factors. Since all pain is ultimately generated by the brain, these techniques are designed to retrain the brain to ignore or re-process chronic pain signals, often by replacing them with a focus on pleasant sensations. Some techniques also focus on releasing repressed emotions through journaling or drawing exercises. These techniques include:
- Guided imagery/visualizations/ breathing exercises
- Brain training exercises (see the Curable app or Ctrl M app)
- Expressive writing/ journaling (see JournalSpeak)
- Neuroplasticity “re-wiring” exercises (see Neuroplastix, The Brain’s Way of Healing, and The Brain That Changes Itself)
***Note: To anyone reading this who is skeptical about trying these techniques, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Modern pain science has advanced a lot in recent years, and there is good evidence that many of these techniques are quite effective for chronic pain. Additionally, they are low-cost with practically no side effects. So if you’re one of those people who has tried everything else, give these a try as well.***
Certain dietary supplements have been shown to have pain-relieving qualities, particularly for headache. However, the dosing and efficacy have often not been proven through clinical trials. Always make sure that any supplements you take do not interfere with other medications.
- B2 (riboflavin)
- Palmitolethalonide (PEA)
- Vitamin D
- Alpha lipoic acid (for nerve-type pain)
Some people with NDPH have reduced the frequency or intensity of their headache through dietary changes. This often helps the most in people with migraine-type symptoms. Results are highly specific to each individual, depending on which food(s) may aggravate your symptoms. If you think your NDPH may be linked to the food(s) you eat, a good first step is to keep a food and symptom log to track if your headache gets worse after eating particular foods. You can also try an elimination diet, like Whole 30. While many people follow the typical “migraine” diet advice to avoid alcohol, chocolate, MSG, etc. diet changes may also help people with NDPH due to:
- Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
- Histamine intolerance (see here for more information)
- Alpha gal syndrome (AGS)/ red meat allergy
- Food allergies or sensitivities
Some diets that have helped others with NDPH include:
- Ketogenic diet
- Gluten free diet
- Carnivore diet
- “Heal Your Headache” diet
*Disclaimer: This website does not endorse any specific diet changes for NDPH. The links provided are merely for additional information. This website does not sell anything or profit in any way. The diets listed here are based purely on anecdotal evidence from others with NDPH. Always consult a medical professional before making any dietary changes.*
There are, of course, a multitude of other chronic pain treatments, ranging from the wacky to the outright dangerous. Many of these have no proven evidence of effectiveness and can be harmful if done incorrectly. Before trying any new treatment, always consider the cost, benefits and risks. However, some other miscellaneous techniques that have shown promise for NDPH or chronic pain are listed below: