Special Interest Section Profile: Complementary & Integrative Medicine

Find out more about how the Complementary & Integrative Medicine Special Interest Section helps facilitate the exchange of information about headache disorders

The American Headache Society is home to a diverse array of Special Interest Sections that connect members with shared expertise and interest to collaborate on research efforts, develop practice models and provide multidisciplinary participation in support of the Society’s mission.

The goals of the Special Interest Section focused on Complementary & Integrative Medicine are closely aligned with AHS’s mission to promote open communication between providers and patients, as well as facilitate the exchange of information about treatment options for headache disorders. By raising awareness about safe alternative methods of treating headache that may result in a more mainstream approach, the Complementary & Integrative section helps healthcare providers identify the most complete, effective, and personalized treatment plan possible for their patients.

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Section Chair Deena Kuruvilla, MD, shares more about the group’s current and ongoing work, and her vision for the future.

Name of Special Interest Section
Complementary & Integrative Medicine

Name of Section Chair
Deena Kuruvilla

What is the mission of your Special Interest Section?
The data has shown that 50% of patients do not discuss their complementary and integrative approaches with their neurologist or healthcare provider. So the mission of our section is to raise more awareness about complementary and integrative treatments that can complement mainstream therapies, as well as educate patients on what has evidence, what doesn’t have evidence, and what is safe or unsafe.

What are some recent projects your section has been a part of?
Well, it’s been an exciting time for complementary and integrative medicine. Because of all the patient excitement and questions about it, we have been able to accomplish a couple of patient education pieces this year. We’ve had Spotlights on migraine for the American Migraine Foundation, and I was able to write a news piece on complementary and integrative medicine for Headache in the News for the American Headache Society. We recently had a Complementary and Integrative Medicine symposium. I provided an evidence-based summary of approaches that could be considered for patients, and we had a specialist on acupuncture and a specialist on mindfulness come in and give us their expert opinion and review the evidence on those approaches.

What are the future goals of this Special Interest Section?
In the coming years, we need more evidence and more studies on complementary and integrative methods, so that we can really encourage our providers within the headache community to start considering these options more. In the coming year, I’m hoping that we can write more patient education pieces to really educate the migraine population on what’s safe, what’s not safe, and really encourage patients to ask their doctor questions, to breach the topic with their doctor, and improve that patient-doctor connection. My other major goal in this section is to take away the judgment associated with complementary and integrative medicine and make it a more open discussion between the doctor or provider and the patient.

How is this Special Interest Section making an impact in the field of headache medicine?
It’s raising more awareness that there are other tools that can help our patients that complement mainstream treatments we are already doing. So it’s educating providers as well. You might be able to complement your mainstream treatments with meditation, for example. That’s something that can be taught to patients to do at home.

Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of the American Headache Society, and we’re grateful to the Complementary & Integrative Medicine Section for actively working to advance those goals. By educating patients and healthcare providers on alternative treatment options, the members of this special interest section are ensuring that the American Headache Society and its members will remain at the forefront of emerging headache treatment technologies.

If you are an AHS member who would like to get involved in the Complementary & Integrative Medicine Section, get in touch.

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