Acupuncture Treats Headaches

I have been wanting to do a newsletter on headaches for some time. This is a subject I am passionate about and one that I treat in my practice with a good deal of success. Headaches can be a complicated medical condition that tend to have limited options for treatment within the Western medical system.

My introduction to acupuncture began nine years ago when I was seeking relief for chronic headaches. I was not interested in relying on medication to reduce the pain. A friend recommended acupuncture and within three months the headaches were dramatically reduced. I was so impressed by my experience that I was inspired to change my career and become an acupuncturist.

Did you know headaches are the most common disorder of the nervous system? According to the World Health Organization, approximately 47% of people experience headaches. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a powerful tool to treat headaches quickly by addressing the cause without any medication side effects.

Anyone who has suffered from headaches knows that finding an effective treatment can be difficult. Not all headaches are the same. The vast majority of headaches are not due to a serious medical condition but due to vascular or muscular contraction or both. Western medicine identifies headaches by the following categories: tension, cluster, migraine, and medication based.

Chinese Medicine uses a different approach by treating headaches in two steps: identifying the root and the branch. The root is the cause of the headache and the branch is where the pain manifests in the body. By identifying the cause of the headache, acupuncture can have a longer term impact including preventing future ones.

Chinese medicine looks for a wide range of information to diagnose the root of headaches. The first consideration of identifying the headache is to understand which meridian in the body is affected. The second is which "internal organ" is involved. Another consideration is how the headache is affected by the following factors: time of day, activity and rest, weather, emotions, food, posture, pressure, and menstruation.

By examining both Western and Chinese Medicine, we are able to better identify the type of headache, causes, and effective treatment approaches:

Tension Headaches

These are the most common type of headaches often showing as tightness in the back of the neck, head, or temples. Most often these headaches are caused by tight muscles or misalignment of the neck, causing an impingement of the nerves and blood flow. This type of headache can also be common for women undergoing hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause as a result of changes in estrogen and progesterone levels.

Most people will take NSAIDs (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) for pain relief usually with success, but this approach treats the symptoms and not the cause of the headache.

Insert image

In Chinese Medicine, the cause of tension headaches can be due to qi and blood stagnation or deficiency within the body. For those who do not want to take medication, acupressure can reduce the pain of tension headaches. "Large Intestine 4" is an effective acupuncture point located between the index finger and thumb.

The most effective approach to treating tension headaches is to meet with an acupuncturist and discuss the specifics of your health history in order to create a custom treatment plan to address triggers such as diet, posture, and stress. For most patients, the frequency of these headaches are greatly reduced within 4-6 weeks of treatments.

Migraine Headaches

This headache a more intense version often accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. The location can be one-sided and throbbing lasting from 4-72 hours, which often interferes with the ability to carry out daily activities. Migraines can be triggered by stress, changes in birth control, and certain foods such as wine, chocolate, nitrates, and cheeses. In Chinese medicine, the root of these headaches are caused by deficiencies (qi, blood, or yin) and liver yang rising. People with migraines often respond well to acupuncture treatments.

Cluster Headaches

These headaches occur in cycles often for several weeks or months followed by a period of remission lasting for months or years. Pain can be located on one side of the head or eye. Cluster headaches are often quite painful and tend to come on during the evening or middle of the night.

Headaches from Medication Overuse

Also known as rebound headaches, these are due to overuse of medications such as Advil or Tylenol. These headaches often are a result of the body developing a dependence on the medication. The recommendation is to stop taking the pain medications. Acupuncture can help reduce the discomfort while your body goes through the withdrawal process.

Here a few tips to help ease headaches:

If you are suffering from ongoing headaches and would like to learn how acupuncture can improve your quality of life, call today or book online to make an appointment.

More Newsletters