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Acupuncture for Headache and Migraine

Posted May 31 2009 10:01pm 2 Comments

Headaches are a nearly universal experience. I doubt there’s a person reading this blog who hasn’t had a headache at some point or another; for many people they are chronic or severe enough to seriously interfere with activities and quality of life.

Sinus headaches are common this time of year, due to allergies (see the article on allergies, in the “respiratory” category, for more information). Many people suffer from migraines, and an unlucky few experience cluster headaches. Most of us sometimes have tension headaches, attributable to stress and/or exhaustion.

Fortunately, headaches of all kinds respond well to acupuncture and herbal treatment.  I have seen many clients get remarkable relief, and research consistently shows that acupuncture is an effective treatment for headache (see for the latest study!).

In Chinese medicine, headaches are caused by one of several dynamics in the body.

First, many headaches occur when the energy is not sufficiently anchored in the body, and flies up to bother the head. These headaches are often intense, throbbing, and usually occur on the temple or behind the eye.  They may come on suddenly, or be triggered by stress or emotional upset.

This type of headache responds especially well to acupuncture points on the legs and feet. Headaches may also be relieved by anything that brings energy to the lower part of the body, such as a foot massage, putting heat or cold packs on the feet, or even eating.  Over the long term, meditation, tai chi, and yoga are also helpful.

Other headaches are caused by energy getting blocked or stuck in the channels of the head. This may be due to stress and tension, sinus congestion, or injury. These headaches vary; some are relatively mild and seem to move around the head; others may be a strong, stabbing pain always in the same location; and some create a heavy, foggy, pressure feeling in the head.

These headaches are often helped by using acupuncture points on the head, to help free the stuck areas. Acupuncture treatment will also target the underlying problems, such as allergies, congestion, stress, or overall energy flow in the body. Moderate exercise is usually helpful, as well as decreasing heavy, greasy foods and sugar in the diet.

Finally, some headaches are the result of depletion; the body simply doesn’t have the energy to nourish the head properly. These headaches are often dull, chronic, and worse at the end of the day.

In these cases, building the energy reserves is key. Acupuncture is focused on helping the body create and store more energy; nourishing herbs are especially helpful. Rest, relaxation, and eating well can make a huge difference with this type of headache.

For all kinds of headaches, it helps to make sure you are getting good nutrition and proper rest, to help keep the body’s energy strong and stable.  Stress reduction is also key to controlling headaches; this may mean making changes in your work or personal life, or prioritizing the activities that help you manage the stress you can’t control.

If you have any questions about your headaches, or how you can help control them, please feel free to post a question and I’ll do my best to help!

Comments (2)
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I see a Chinease Medicine practioner who administers Acupuncture to relief my migraines and also prescribes an herb mixture called Jai Wei Xien.

The acupunture works well, but the effect isn't lasting. Becuase it would mean taking off of work to get there, I only utilize acupuncutre when the headaches get difficult to manage in other ways.

The herb stimulates my stagnant liver chi, gives me back the energy the migraines take, improves digestion and gives me an overall better feeling of well-being.  I also think that it helps limit the frequency of the migraines because my system works so much better.

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for taking the time to comment!  I'm glad that Chinese herbs are working well for you.  Some people respond better to herbs than acupuncture, and vice versa. It does sound like the herbs get to the root of the problem for you, and I hope things will continue to improve over time!

Also, I'm not sure how many acupuncture treatments you have had.  It is true that it usually takes an fairly long course of consistent acupuncture treatment to fundamentally change the cause of the migraines. At first, you're likely to get symptomatic relief that doesn't last very long, but it usually has a cumulative effect over time, and the intensity and frequency of migraines can decrease significantly. Using acupuncture for immediate relief in "emergency" situations, as you do, can also make a lot of sense, especially if it's difficult to get to treatments regularly.

Ideally, I prefer to treat people with a combination of acupuncture and herbs, since I think this is the quickest and most effective way to healing for most people.

Thanks again for writing!


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