Acupuncture for Headache and Migraine

May 31, 2009 at 3:12 pm 1 comment

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, eating, or sexual activity.  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; sometimes the person describes an “empty” feeling in the brain.

In these cases, building the energy reserves is key. Acupuncture is focused on helping the body create and store more energy, and nourishing herbs are especially helpful. Rest, relaxation, and eating well can make a significant 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 comment!


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Dr. Brian  |  June 16, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Thanks for a great acticle, I will pass this on to my patients…


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