Can Acupuncture Relieve Headaches?
HEADACHES: an unfortunate human condition that is nearly unavoidable.
We have all had the unpleasant experience of suffering through at least one, if not hundreds, during our lifetimes. There are many different types of headaches; each varying in severity, duration, and location while stemming from various causes. The good news is, regardless of the culprit, studies show that acupuncture can provide immediate relief, and prevent future headaches!
It wasn’t until I found acupuncture that I realized I didn’t have to live with headaches and handfuls of Excedrin. Sure, I still get headaches from time to time, but now when I feel a headache coming on, I know I have options! Generally a visit to my acupuncturist annihilates a debilitating migraine, and I’m back on my feet before I know it!
Here are some of the main headache types and their causes:
Tension headaches are the most common. Patients suffering from tension headaches generally feel mild to moderate pain on both the left and right sides of the head. The pain is usually described as tight, stiff or constricting, as if something is being wrapped around your head and squeezed tightly. Sound familiar? I definitely had one of these puppies this week. Tension headaches are often caused by stress, tight neck muscles, or tense shoulders. All too often, these aspects occur together. Lucky for us, acupuncture is here to treat all three of these evils, and save the day!
The Migraine actually affects far fewer people than tension headaches and have a much shorter duration, however their symptoms are far more severe. Typically, they affect women more often than men, with pain that is usually one-sided. The afflicted person may also experience something called an aura before the migraine makes its rude arrival. An aura can present as a change in vision, which could be unusual blind spots, flashes of light, or a glimmer at the edge of your vision. Some people even experience a certain smell! This aura is like a warning that a migraine is due to show up, and this is the perfect time to make an acupuncture appointment to stop the pain in its tracks and avoid a world of hurt! Migraines can be so severe, they can cause loss of appetite, blurred vision, nausea, and even vomiting. These are no joke, and often wreak havoc on a person’s life! Migraines are caused by blood vessels constricting and then suddenly dilating in the brain, creating a sudden surge of blood flow. Ouch!
Cervicogenic headaches are musculoskeletal in nature. They are typically caused by pain in the neck or spine that is transferred to the head. Many times, cervicogenic headaches go undiagnosed because it wasn’t until recently that these types of headaches were even classified! (This seems shocking!) Too many hours staring at a computer screen locked in one position? Slept in a weird position last night? Recent injury or car accident? There are so many ways to find yourself suffering from a cervicogenic headache, I am sure you can think of a few I missed!
Acupuncture is effective for migraine headaches as well as tension headaches, cluster headaches, post-traumatic headaches, and disease-related headaches that might be due to sinus problems, high blood pressure or sleeping disorders. The greatest advantage of acupuncture over Western medicine is that it does virtually no harm. Some medications can have serious side effects and can (in some instances) actually lead to patients experiencing a “rebound” headache. Unlike synthetic drugs, acupuncture has virtually no side effects in comparison to all Western headache cures, except maybe better sleep and an overall feeling of ease. 🙂
Research: A recent systematic review of 22 clinical trials involving 4985 people discovered that acupuncture reduces the frequency of headaches in individuals with migraines, and that the effect may be similar to that observed with preventive medications, but without the side effects. The frequency of headaches is dropped by 50% or more in up to 59% of individuals receiving acupuncture, and this effect can persist for more than 6 months.