Acupuncture for headaches/migraines

The pain that headache and migraine sufferers endure can impact every aspect of their lives. Acupuncture can offer powerful relief without the side effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine have been used to relieve Headaches and Migraines, as well as their underlying causes, for thousands of years and is a widely accepted form of treatment for headaches in our society. There are acupuncturists that specialize in the treatment of headaches and migraines and can help you manage your pain with acupuncture and Chinese herbs alone, or as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

Diagnosis with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine does not recognize migraines and recurring headaches as one particular syndrome. Instead, it aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of of techniques such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tui-na massage, and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, your diagnosis and treatment will depend on a number of variables: Is the headache behind your eyes and temples, or is it located more on the top of your head? When do your headaches occur (i.e. night, morning, after eating)? Do you find that a cold compress or a dark room can alleviate some of the pain? Do you describe the pain as dull and throbbing, or sharp and piercing?

Studies on Acupuncture and Headaches

Since the early seventies, studies around the globe have suggested that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines and headaches. Recent studies show extremely positive results:

In a case study, published in the June 2003 Issue of Medical Acupuncture, doctors found that acupuncture resulted in the resolution or reduction in the frequency and severity of cluster headaches, and a decrease or discontinuation of medications. It was concluded that Acupuncture can be used to provide sustained relief from cluster headaches and to stimulate adrenal cortisol to aid in discontinuing corticosteroids.

A clinical observation, published in a 2002 edition of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, of 50 patient presenting with various types of headaches were treated with scalp acupuncture. The results of this study showed that 98% of patients treated with scalp acupuncture experienced no headaches or only occasional, mild headaches in the six months following care.

In a study published in the November 1999 issue of Cephalalgia, scientists evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of migraines and recurrent headaches by systematically reviewing 22 randomized controlled trials. A total of 1,042 patients were examined. It was found that headache and migraine sufferers experienced significantly more relief from acupuncture than patients who were administered "sham" acupuncture.

By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM


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