Headaches and Migraines
A headache is defined as pain in any region of the head. Headache symptoms can be mild or severe, ranging from pulsating pain in one area of the head to pain behind the eyes or in the neck. Pain can be throbbing, sharp, or dull. While getting a headache is a universal human experience, and most headaches are short-lived and relatively benign; for many people, headaches are a serious problem because of their frequency or severity. A very small percentage of headaches are due to traumatic brain injury or tumor, and some are the result of anatomical abnormalities or polyps. The vast majority are due to more benign causes. This does not, however, make these headaches any less painful. While conventional medicine treats headaches primarily with medication, acupuncture treatment for headaches involves activating the parasympathetic nervous system and decreasing muscle tension.
Benefits of Acupuncture
Unlike medication, acupuncture has virtually no side effects, and the procedures for treating headaches are much less invasive than traditional medicine. Acupuncture can help patients relax and transition off medications. Most headaches, regardless of their origins, respond well to acupuncture treatment. Types of headaches commonly treated with acupuncture include:
- Tension headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Sinus and allergy headaches
- Migraine headaches
The needles used in acupuncture focus on specific points on the body to relax the nervous system. Acupuncture treatment also pinpoints central pain pathways to promote the release of endorphins. Acupuncture can help to decrease acute headache pain, reduce tight or sore muscles that may be contributing to migraines, restore energy, and possibly prevent future headaches.
The Acupuncture Method
Most headaches have neuromuscular triggers. Acupuncture treatments for headaches focus on deactivating the trigger points responsible. Because the pain of a migraine headache is often associated with dilation of blood vessels in the head, the head and neck areas are rarely stimulated during acupuncture for headaches. Instead, the points chosen for such treatment are usually located on the forearms, shoulders, and lower legs. Typical treatments last from 15 to 30 minutes, their frequency based on the needs of the individual patient.