Unconventional procedures: From acupuncture to dental treatment

Before therapeutic methods can be recommended in science with a clear conscience, the methods must prove their effectiveness and tolerability in strict tests. There are mutliple reasons for this:

  • Patients do not benefit from ineffective methods
  • Patients can be harmed by possible side effects
  • The insured community has to pay for useless therapy procedures
TENS treatment

TENS treatment

Unconventional medical directions include diagnostic and therapeutic methods whose effectiveness and tolerability have not yet been examined with the necessary care and quality. This does not necessarily mean that they must be ineffective.

Many of the conventional therapy methods established today were once unconventional. Willow willow juice, for example, which contains the active ingredient of aspirin, is a good example of this. However, the therapeutic effect of unconventional procedures cannot be calculated because there are no adequate scientific studies. There is no doubt that there would be no room for unconventional methods if conventional methods were sufficiently effective for all people. So you should approach the topic relatively unprejudiced.

Acupuncture is a Chinese procedure that is around 4,000 years old and is said to be effective for all kinds of diseases and ailments. But “acupuncture” itself does not exist. Rather, a whole range of different procedures are used: body acupuncture, ear acupuncture, auriculotherapy, moxibustion, acupuncture injections, needle acupuncture with electrical stimulation, electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture and others.

In classic Chinese acupuncture, needles made of steel, gold or silver are inserted into specific points on the skin. The points are located on certain lines that cover the entire body and were called Jing luo by the Chinese, which translates roughly as “net-like connecting vascular-nervous systems”. Western doctors call these lines meridians, based on the Earth's system of longitude and latitude. According to traditional teaching, life energy (Qi) should flow in these lines. By inserting the acupuncture needles, the disturbed energy flow is supposed to be regulated and normalized.

Today, attempts are made to explain the effects of acupuncture using modern concepts of pain perception. It is assumed that the body's own pain defense systems are stimulated by inserting the acupuncture needles.

Studies evaluating acupuncture are plagued by major methodological problems. And unfortunately the results of these studies are very contradictory. A significant therapeutic effect cannot be demonstrated in these studies.

What is certain, however, is that the frequency of migraines often decreases during the initial period of acupuncture treatment. In this respect, however, acupuncture does not differ from treatment with a drug-free placebo. If one takes these study results into account, one must conclude that, according to current knowledge, the various acupuncture treatments only show short-term and moderate therapeutic effects. Since acupuncture is a simple, inherently cheap method with few side effects, it should be freed from all myths and ideologies as soon as possible. An unbiased evaluation of the procedures in scientific studies could then make their true importance understandable.

In this method, patients use their thumb or index finger to press or massage certain points on the body that are connected to the acupuncture meridian system. Relaxation and rest must also be maintained. There are no scientific, controlled studies on its effectiveness for migraines, so we cannot assume an effect here either.

Chiropractic methods attempt, among other things, to correct the position of the vertebral joints in the cervical spine relative to one another. Although there are many studies on the effectiveness of chiropractic methods in the treatment of headache disorders, these are almost without exception not recognized due to significant methodological deficiencies.

In a methodically well-controlled study, no difference was found between chiropractic treatment, light cervical spine range of motion exercises and massage treatment. In rare cases, chiropractic manipulation can also trigger a stroke. So there seems to be no reason to take this risk in the absence of effectiveness.

A natural, balanced diet is undoubtedly healthier than denatured industrial food and a one-sided diet. Abstinence from recreational drugs is also an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Special diet programs have been developed, such as the Evers diet, FXMayer diet and other procedures. Apart from the avoidance of specific trigger factors, a specific effect of special diets in the treatment of headaches has not yet been proven in controlled scientific studies.

Electrical stimulation
Stimulating the neck or other parts of the body with electrical current has been used to treat headaches for over 100 years. Today, current treatments are offered in the form of “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” (TENS) or “pointwise transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” (PuTENS). Both procedures use skin electrodes through which the current through the skin (=transcutaneous) can stimulate nerves.

The two methods differ in the type of electrodes: either large-area electrodes or punctual electrodes are used. The procedures for preventing migraine attacks are recommended by device providers. Scientific study results show that only some patients can achieve temporary improvement.

Focal renovation
Chronic infections, especially in the area of ​​the teeth, are said to lead to the development of chronic diseases. By eliminating the source of the disease (=focus), the disease should disappear. Sick teeth are treated therapeutically and sometimes the entire set of teeth is removed. Effectiveness in the treatment of headaches through controlled scientific studies is still unclear.

Homeopathy is very popular because it suggests medicinal effects with the additional promise of the best possible tolerability. Many people want to trust this gentle method with no side effects, which is completely understandable and understandable. Homeopathy is based on the ideas of the similarity principle. Like should be cured by like, or so Samuel Hahnemann thought 200 years ago. Homeopathy has so far failed to provide proof. One should be aware of the fact that homeopathy does not have an effect through a medicinal effect (it no longer contains any active ingredients), but only through the ritual and the placebo effect. The homeopath takes his time, listens, lets the patient speak and is interested in all areas of life - he has a “holistic” view of the patient. In the best case, the treating doctor also has this, and then the patient feels like they are in good hands.

Homeopathy has not been able to provide any evidence of effectiveness in over 200 years. At high potencies, no molecule of the active ingredient can be detected; it is believed that water has the ability to remember.

Hypnosis is a special, in-depth relaxation method. Its effectiveness has been proven beyond doubt for some areas of application. However, to date there has been no study showing that this method is effective for headaches.

Cold therapy
The use of cold for headaches, called cryotherapy, is an old procedure. You put cold compresses around the temples, ice packs or apply special cooling gels. The assumed mechanism of action is that the blood vessels contract due to the cold effect. Some studies show that these methods can have a pleasant effect on mild headaches, but are not sufficient as an independent therapeutic method.

Kneipp therapy
Treading water, alternating baths, knee, thigh, arm and facial waterings are recommended for headaches. Controlled effectiveness studies that meet scientific criteria are pending. However, since Kneipp therapy includes much more than just water applications - above all, it promotes a balanced lifestyle - a prophylactic effect based on these aspects would be within the realm of possibility.

Magnetic field therapy
Magnetic fields of various strengths have been used to treat headaches. There are no known studies that prove it is effective for headaches.

Neck massages
To date, there has been no controlled scientific study as to whether massages can be helpful for migraines. On the contrary, some patients report that massage can even trigger migraine attacks.

Neural therapy
Neural therapy attempts, among other things, to eliminate interference fields by injecting local anesthetics. This form of therapy is used for a wide variety of illnesses. An effect in the treatment of headaches through controlled scientific studies is unclear.

The artificial word “psychophony” is used with the slogan “Hear yourself healthy” to advertise a therapy method that is said to be effective against migraines in addition to a variety of illnesses – e.g. sleep disorders, depression, etc. The procedure consists of several steps. First, an electroencephalogram (brain wave measurement; EEG) is derived, which is read into a computer. It is important that this EEG is recorded outside the time phase of a migraine attack. The electrical currents are then converted into audible sounds by the computer. The patient is then given a tape cassette containing this “music”. This cassette should be listened to regularly. The aim is to make the brain excitation pattern audible in order to enable the brain to relax.

The process has not yet been sufficiently scientifically tested. It is also not a biofeedback procedure, as the current EEG activity cannot be reported back and actively influenced. Rather, it is the performance of the same piece of music over and over again, which at best enables unspecific relaxation.

Visits to the sauna can significantly improve your well-being. However, in some people they also trigger migraine attacks. There are no controlled studies on its effectiveness for headaches. However, it is conceivable that the balancing effect of saunas on the autonomic nervous system could play a positive role in prophylaxis.

Sleep cures
During the sleep cure, patients are put into a light twilight sleep for several days. However, the depth of sleep still allows you to go to the toilet. An effect in the treatment of headaches has not yet been proven in controlled scientific studies.

Snake, spider and scorpion poisons
Injecting poisons comes from Chinese culture and is still used by alternative practitioners today. The poisons are said to affect the nervous and immune systems. There is no comprehensible explanation for this therapy method.

Stellatum blocks
Local anesthetics are injected into the stellate ganglion (nerve junction in the neck). It is believed that this can eliminate circulatory problems. An effect in the treatment of headaches has not yet been proven.

Dental Treatments
Although there is no doubt that headaches and facial pain can be caused by disorders of the masticatory system, to date there is no reliable evidence that migraines are caused by such abnormalities. Braces or bite splints are sometimes recommended for migraines. However, there are no studies that prove the effectiveness of such therapies for migraines.