Acupuncture for Headaches - 5 Types of Headaches Acupuncture Can Help

5 Types of Headaches Acupuncture Can Help With

Written by Lara McQuade L. Ac. 

Around 90% of people worldwide experience a headache at some point in their lives (Robbins, 2021).

Acupuncture is a safe, gentle and effective treatment for headaches without the harmful side effects of medication.

No wonder headache is one of the most common ailments for which people seek acupuncture treatment. Several headache conditions can improve with acupuncture treatment, including: tension type headache, migraine headache, mixed headache, cervicogenic headache, and occipital neuralgia.

Location of acupuncture points to treat headache vary. Sometimes acupuncturists will place needles in the muscles of the scalp and neck for headache. However, headaches will often be treated with acupuncture points at other areas of the body such as the arms and legs.

1. Tension Type Headache

Research has shown that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of tension type headaches  (Nielsen, 2017). Tension Type Headache is by far the most common type of primary headache, affecting about 80% of the population (Ertsey et al, 2019).

Tension type headaches are usually mild to moderate, not severe enough to seek emergency medical care, yet can still be very disruptive to people’s lives. Tension headaches are felt in the following areas (Turkistani et al, 2021):

  • Pain at the temples

  • Pressure like a band around the forehead

  • Pain and tension in the muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back

  • Pain behind the eyes

2. Migraine Headache

Migraine headaches are not quite as common as tension type headaches, but the pain and other migraine symptoms can be severe and disabling. Migraine Disorder is the number one cause of disability worldwide for young women (Steiner et al, 2020). Fortunately, acupuncture can help for migraine symptoms too (Urits et al, 2020).

Some common symptoms of migraine headache are:

  • One-sided headache

  • Throbbing pain

  • Symptoms that last several days

Headaches are just one symptom of migraine disorder, and other symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Light and noise sensitivity

  • Visual disturbances

  • Vertigo

  • Sensitivity to strong smells like scented candles, detergents, or car exhaust

3. Mixed Headache

Mixed headache is the way to describe the condition in which someone often gets more than one type of headache. For example, this most often describes mixed tension headache and migraine headache. Oftentimes, people experience tension headaches more frequently, and a severe episode precedes a migraine headache.

While some academics argue over whether the term, “mixed headache” is needed, with headache symptoms few people have symptoms that neatly fit into one box or another. Acupuncture is a unique approach that allows treatment targeted at the exact headache pattern that day.

4. Cervicogenic Headache

Sometimes headache pain may actually be generated from a problem at the neck. This is known as cervicogenic headache. Neck conditions such as arthritis, nerve root impingement, whiplash injury, or other neck conditions may be involved.

Acupuncture may be helpful for this type of pain by taking the approach of treating the neck problem directly, to indirectly affect the headache (Chu, 2016).

5. Occipital Neuralgia

In this condition, pain is caused by irritation, injury or compression of the occipital nerves at the back of the head.

Symptoms of occipital neuralgia:

  • Brief episodes of sharp, shooting pain at the back of the head

  • May also have constant low grade pain

  • Pain may be one-sided or bilateral

This type of headache can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from migraine headache. Acupuncture treatment will often be targeted to reduce tension of muscles and fascia at the back of the head, to alleviate compression of the nerve. (Pan et al, 2021)

Lara McQuade, L.Ac. is a pain specialist at Lokahi Acupuncture. With a strong background in chronic pain, she specializes in headache, neck pain and neurological conditions. If you would like to schedule a free online consultation with her, click here and follow the link.

Lara McQuade, San Jose Acupuncturist
408.279.9001
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References:

Barmherzig, R., & Kingston, W. (2019). Occipital Neuralgia and Cervicogenic Headache: Diagnosis and Management. Current neurology and neuroscience reports, 19(5), 20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11910-019-0937-8

Djavaherian DM, Guthmiller KB. Occipital Neuralgia. [Updated 2022 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538281/

Ertsey, C., Magyar, M., Gyüre, T., Balogh, E., & Bozsik, G. (2019). A tenziós fejfájás és kezelése [Tension type headache and its treatment possibilities]. Ideggyogyaszati szemle, 72(1-2), 13–21. https://doi.org/10.18071/isz.72.0013

Chu, H., & Hu, B. (2016). Zhongguo zhen jiu = Chinese acupuncture & moxibustion, 36(1), 29–32.

Nielsen A. (2017). Acupuncture for the Prevention of Tension-Type Headache (2016). Explore (New York, N.Y.), 13(3), 228–231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2017.03.007

Pan, W., Peng, J., & Elmofty, D. (2021). Occipital Neuralgia. Current pain and headache reports, 25(9), 61. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-021-00972-1

Robbins M. S. (2021). Diagnosis and Management of Headache: A Review. JAMA, 325(18), 1874–1885. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.1640

Steiner, T. J., Stovner, L. J., Jensen, R., Uluduz, D., Katsarava, Z., & Lifting The Burden: the Global Campaign against Headache (2020). Migraine remains second among the world’s causes of disability, and first among young women: findings from GBD2019. The journal of headache and pain, 21(1), 137. https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-020-01208-0

Turkistani, A., Shah, A., Jose, A. M., Melo, J. P., Luenam, K., Ananias, P., Yaqub, S., & Mohammed, L. (2021). Effectiveness of Manual Therapy and Acupuncture in Tension-Type Headache: A Systematic Review. Cureus, 13(8), e17601. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.17601

Urits, I., Patel, M., Putz, M. E., Monteferrante, N. R., Nguyen, D., An, D., Cornett, E. M., Hasoon, J., Kaye, A. D., & Viswanath, O. (2020). Acupuncture and Its Role in the Treatment of Migraine Headaches. Neurology and therapy, 9(2), 375–394. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40120-020-00216-1

5 Benefits of Cupping - Cupping Lokahi Acupuncture

4 Benefits of Cupping

What is Cupping?

Cupping is an ancient form of healing that gained interest and popularity during the 2016 Olympics when swimmer Michael Phelps sported some round bruises on his back. Cupping is the application of glass, silicone, bamboo or plastic cups onto the body in a vacuum, creating a suction on the skin. Suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin. The body treats the cupping site like an injury and sends more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process.

Many cultures throughout the world use cupping, which attests to  its many benefits as a therapy. Different types of practitioners use cupping as an essential therapy here in the United States. For example acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors and massage therapists.

Cupping can be used for a variety of conditions such as:

  • low back pain
  • tight shoulders
  • arthritis
  • sports injury
  • asthma
  • headaches, including migraine headaches
  • non-specific aches and pains

At Lokahi Acupuncture, we use a form of cupping known as “dry cupping”.

Using glass cups, the practitioner will create a vacuum with gentle heat and then place the cup on the skin. The skin is then drawn into the cup causing the blood vessels near the surface to break. The cup is typically applied to the skin for about 5 minutes.

Dry cupping is our preferred method because it’s safe and doesn’t carry a risk of injury, and it’s sanitary with easy to sterilize cups.

1. Cupping increases blood flow

When the body has sustained an injury, the body’s healing mechanisms make sure that the area of injury has an increased flow of blood bringing nutrients and other cells to the rescue. Cupping helps increase that blood flow, known as vasodilation, to prevent scar tissue from forming or building up. This can help speed recovery.

2. Cupping decreases inflammation

It might sound counterintuitive; and although cupping increases blood flow, it also helps to decrease inflammation. Blood flow brings the cells necessary to reduce inflammation, and cupping increases that blood flow.

3. Cupping helps relax muscles

Working out, injury or certain stressors can cause muscles to be stiff and painful. Cupping helps decrease tightness, allowing the muscles to relax and recuperate. If muscles have been in a spasm for any length of time, cupping can be an extremely effective form of therapy to release that spasm, encouraging the body to heal.

4. Cupping eases pain

There is little consensus on exactly how cupping mitigates pain so well. One theory is that the process induces the production of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals the body produces that act on the brain to induce relaxation, pain reduction and mood elevation.

A few things to keep in mind

For many cupping is extremely relaxing, but for others it can be intense. Communicating with your practitioner ensures that you feel safe and that if you are experiencing anything more than minor pain, it can be taken care of.

Cupping causes round bruises following a session. These bruises vary from person to person and usually don’t last longer than a couple of days.

Receiving cupping from a qualified practitioner who is both licensed and experienced results in the best outcomes.

Our pain specialists at Lokahi Acupuncture have extensive experience in cupping, and use this therapy frequently to complement acupuncture treatments. If you are interested in scheduling a free online consultation, you can book here.

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
408.279.9001
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