Acupuncture for Headaches
Research shows that acupuncture can be effective for treating both episodic and chronic tension-type headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder pain, TMJ, and chronic pain.
The vast majority of mild cases are self-treated with over-the-counter pain medications. While this provides quick and easy relief, it’s not ideal as a long term strategy as it can damage your stomach and liver and does not address the root cause. Acupuncture therapy is an opportunity to expand your approach and shift your headaches for good.
The goals of treatments are:
- Relieving symptoms
- Reducing the frequency, intensity, and duration of pain
- Shifting the quality of pain
- Regulating underlying mental and emotional stress
- Preventing recurrence
- Treating underlying disease process if present
Acupuncture works by stimulating multiple mechanisms of action simultaneously:
- Initiates the release of natural painkillers called endorphins
- Improves the brain’s sensitivities to these endorphins
- Dampens pain sensations and signaling in the brain and spinal cord
- Regulates emotional centers of the brain related to pain
- Calms the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system
- Relaxes muscular tension, tightness, and spasms and increases head and neck mobility
What to expect from acupuncture treatments for headaches?
Assessments and treatments are individualized to each person, which means each patient seeking headache pain relief may receive a different diagnosis and treatment.
Your practitioner will ask about your health history and symptoms and then conduct an exam which includes identifying areas of sensitivity on your head and body. They will also feel your pulse and look at your tongue to assess the balance of your internal body systems. Your diagnosis and treatment plan will be based on your exam results, constitutional type, Chinese Medicine diagnostic headache patterns, and biomedical headache physiology.
A combination of treatment modalities will be used as part of your treatment prescription:
- Hair-thin needles placed locally near the area of pain (such as the head and neck) and distally (such as hands and feet).
- Trigger point therapy
- Cupping and gua sha manual therapies
- Chinese therapeutic massage
- Chinese herbal medicine prescription
- Lifestyle and dietary recommendations
The majority of cases benefit from concurrent supportive lifestyle therapies including stress reduction techniques, massage, posture corrections, dietary examination, etc. Your practitioner will discuss with you what other therapies can be of benefit.
Treatment frequency is also individually based depending on severity, chronicity, diagnosis and response to treatment. They may range from weekly visits with a reassessment at the sixth visit or for chronic severe cases, 2 sessions per week for 6-12 weeks may be needed to yield the most reliable results.
When to seek acupuncture care for headache issues?
For some cases, acupuncture is enough to address the problem. Acupuncture treatments are best suited for cases in which:
- Your headaches are negatively impacting your life
- Other therapies are not working
- You would rather not rely on medications
- You want a therapy that simultaneously addresses stress and other underlying causes
For other cases, a multi-prong approach is required. Your practitioner will work with you to optimize your care with other therapeutic interventions including medication therapy, body work, and care coordination with other medical professionals.
You don’t need to continue to suffer!
Let the acupuncture pain specialists at Lokahi help you break free from pain and regain your quality of life. They will discuss your options and if you can benefit from a course of acupuncture therapy.
Call today for a consultation or schedule a free initial consultation online
It’s important to note that some headache cases have serious underlying health conditions and may need immediate medical attention. You should go see your doctor immediately if your headache is associated with any of the following conditions:
- Sudden new onset of severe pain like you’ve never had before (this could be a sign of an aneurysm of stroke. Contact 911.)
- Sudden unexplained numbness or paralysis
- Unusually severe or loss of vision
- Unexplained dizziness or nausea.
- Fever or stiff neck
- Problems with speech
- Weakness (such as inability to raise arms over head)
- Head trauma
- Headaches that keep getting worse
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I have to say not only did not one needle hurt in the least bit, but Susannah has such a gentle touch that I left feeling so relaxed, I floated out. She used different modalities including cupping and light massage. I highly recommend her and wish I could go everyday!
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I had my first visit with Andrea Geiger and my experience can bu summed up with a "thumbs-up". She was very thorough with her in-take and she really listen to the discomfort that I was experiencing. We've set a game plan for treatment moving forward. Overall, I felt welcomed, relaxed and in great hands.