Acupuncture For Headaches
We all know the pain and tension of the occasional headache. In fact, over half of the world’s population report having experienced some form of headache each year. But what about those headaches that don’t go away? The ones that make the simple activities of daily life nearly impossible? At The WellBridge Clinic, we know that acupuncture for headaches can help with these recurring or severe headaches. Here’s how.
How can acupuncture for headaches help?
The burden that headache treatments place on primary care physicians is extraordinary. Many offer prescriptions in an effort to help their patients. Unfortunately, medications may not be effective for symptoms and don’t fix the underlying biochemical or mechanical issues leading to headaches in the first place. Acupuncture for headaches helps you feel relief and get to the underlying problem so you stay better. Acupuncture is simple, effective, and side-effect free.
So how does it work? When there is reduced circulation and increased tension in the body, disease or dysfunction can occur. Acupuncture increases nerve, blood, and bio-electrical circulation to treat illness, including headache pain.
Modern research shows that when these surgical grade, sterilized, hair-thin acupuncture pins are inserted into specific points, it releases pain-relieving chemicals in the body and brain. Acupuncture also reduces the chemicals that cause inflammation. This reduction can help relieve headaches that are caused or worsened by inflammation.
Evidence indicates that acupuncture is effective for at least three of the most common types of headache: tension, sinus, and migraine.
Acupuncture for tension headaches
Tenison headaches are characterized by pressure and tightness on both sides of the head. Patients may also experience pain and sensitivity in the head, neck, upper back, and shoulders.
Episodic tension headaches occur fewer than 15 days a month and last for 30 minutes each time. Chronic tension headaches are quite different. The unrelenting pain can last for hours. Episodic tension headaches are more common but can, over time, become chronic.
There is good news, though. A large review of studies found that acupuncture for tension headaches is remarkably effective in reducing the pain and duration of the headache. An updated review of studies in 2016 found similar results. Patients who turned to acupuncture found that regular acupuncture for tension headaches relieved their pain, but it also prevented reoccurrence over a long period of time.
Both of these studies provide positive results for patients who currently rely on medications for their tension headaches, as it could help them reduce their use. Reducing the use of prescription pain medications with their serious side effects is important, of course, but limiting use of over-the-counter NSAIDs as well is often overlooked. With regular use, NSAIDs can lead to serious side effects like liver failure and intestinal bleeding. With acupuncture, patients can reduce or stop their use all together of both types of medication.
Acupuncture for sinus headaches
The sinus cavity is an air-filled space in the front of your face that spans the forehead, cheeks, and bridge of the nose. When inflammation occurs here, tremendous pain and pressure can occur. This leads to blocked sinus cavities, allergies, and even infection.
Pain is a primary symptom, but sinus headaches may also come with runny nose, fever, facial swelling, and a feeling of facial fullness.
There are few studies that directly examine the effectiveness of acupuncture for sinus headaches. However, a study focusing on sinus headaches specifically found that patients who used acupuncture for sinus headaches used less medication and felt relief from pain and pressure.
Most studies look at acupuncture for conditions that cause sinus headaches, such as chronic rhinitis. In this, there is more evidence. For example, one study found that acupuncture for sinus headaches was effective for patients with chronic comorbid conditions. Acupuncture also relieved nasal congestion and corresponding pain.
Acupuncture for migraines
Migraine headaches can be debilitating. They vary from person to person but are generally recurring. This type of headache has four stages and can be triggered by any of the following:
- Hormonal changes
- Flashing or bright lights
- Poor or inadequate sleep
- Changes in the weather
- Excessive physical activity
- Loud noise
- Strong smells
- Certain foods
Migraine symptoms can include pain, nausea, dizziness, and extreme fatigue. Some patients experience visual disturbances like flashing lights or wavy lines.
When it comes to migraines, sufferers know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One study found that acupuncture was just as effective as prescription medication in preventing migraines. For migraine sufferers, this showcases just how powerful acupuncture can be in relieving pain and other symptoms, while also reducing medication use.
Another study in 2018 noted chemical changes in the brain that occurred after receiving acupuncture for migraines. This change reduced the intensity of head pain. The study also found a decrease in the frequency and duration of migraines.
Similar to tension headaches, acupuncture for migraine also helps to prevent reoccurrence of migraine.
Our approach to acupuncture for headaches
At The WellBridge Clinic, a Portland acupuncture clinic, our approach to acupuncture for headaches is three-pronged. We design a treatment approach that provides relief from acute pain while we target the underlying cause of your headaches.
Once headache severity and frequency are under control, we work with you and your other healthcare providers to maintain long-term health and wellness. We take a comprehensive look at your overall health and tailor treatments to your personal goals, both long- and short-term. We believe that health is achieved in balance with traditional medical therapies as well as integrative medicine like acupuncture.