Integrative medicine for chronic headaches is supported by veterans and providers

Integrative medicine for chronic headaches is supported by veterans and providers

Veteran patients and health care providers felt complementary and integrative medicine was a safe addition to mainstream treatment options for headache management, researchers reported in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies.

“We found that veterans with chronic headache were very interested in combining alternatives, such as acupuncture, massage, yoga or tai chi, with mainstream medicine and that they were encouraged by the fact that alternatives exist to simply taking additional pharmaceuticals for pain,” senior study author Teresa Damush, PhD, a research career scientist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and research scientist at Regenstrief Institute, said in a press release from Regenstrief.

According to the release, migraines affect one in seven Americans and 12% of veterans, and veterans who have been in combat or have a history of traumatic brain injury may experience severe headaches that affect their quality of life and ability to function.

To better understand preferences in headache management among veterans and health care providers, Damush and colleagues interviewed 20 veteran patients and 43 providers at 12 Veterans Health Administration Headache Centers of Excellence from January 2019 to March 2020.

After conducting thematic and case comparative analyses, researchers concluded that both patients and providers had favorable views of incorporating complementary and integrative medicine into headache management.

“What we have learned from this study, which used semi-structured interviews to learn from stakeholders, is generalizable to other health care systems and settings, advancing understanding of how to improve the way we care for patients with chronic headache,” Damush said. “While health care providers indicated a need to learn the scientific evidence for alternative therapies for chronic headache, they supported patient empowerment and typically encouraged patients who articulated an interest in alternative therapies.”