If you have ever suffered from frequent headaches or migraines, you know how debilitating and disruptive these types of pain can be to your daily life. Headaches come in many different shapes and forms. The most common are tension headaches that affect both sides of the head originating from the neck and shoulders. The pain quality is usually dull and related to stress and muscle tension. Another common type of headache is cluster headache, which comes on in a cyclical pattern, typically involving a nerve pathway dysfunction in the brain. Attacks usually cause severe pain and tend to affect one side of the head, focusing on the eye area. Some medical conditions can also trigger secondary headaches as one of the symptoms. These include sinus headaches, rebound headaches, hormone headaches, concussion headaches, and hypertension headaches (which is a medical emergency).
On the other hand, migraines are a class of their own. These are recurring, intense, disabling headaches that have neurological origins. Migraines usually happen on one side of the head and can last up to days. Migraines can also be accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound. Some migraines also come with aura - a perceptual sensory disturbance. This can be in the form of visual disturbance, weakness, confusion, or even tingling in the extremities. Migraines can be very difficult to manage even with prescription drugs and other therapies such as Botox injections and wearable equipment. Not to mention the significant side effects of some of these interventions.
Acupuncture reduces the need for chronic pharmaceutical drug use
The common pharmaceutical drugs people use for migraine prevention are divalproex sodium, topiramate, metoprolol, and propanol. These drugs are associated with risks of adverse side effects when taken regularly - such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, GI issues or even rebound headaches. In contrast, acupuncture can treat migraines without the risks of these side effects. As an example, in a 24-week clinical trial, 249 patients with aura migraines saw significant improvements in the intensity and frequency of their migraine attacks, more so than the control group that only received drug intervention for their migraines. In the clinic, I typically see a significant improvement in migraine frequency and intensity when patients combine acupuncture with other migraine management modalities, and hence decrease their need for drug intervention.
Can acupuncture prevent headaches and migraines from happening?
Yes, it is possible. Many types of headaches are triggered by stress, overwork, lack of sleep, hormone imbalance, and stiff muscles in the head and neck.
Acupuncture can provide relief to those headache triggers before they fully evolve into an attack. With regular treatments, it is possible to decrease the intensity and frequency of your headaches and migraines. In my clinical experience, some patients have even become completely headache-free.
Acupuncture improves medical conditions that cause secondary headaches
As for secondary headaches, acupuncture has the ability to improve primary medical conditions such as chronic sinusitis, hormonal imbalance, PTSD, etc, thus making it possible to relieve the frequency and intensity of these secondary headaches.
How does acupuncture treat those headache triggers?
Acupuncture reduces stress and improves mood
First, acupuncture triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress, anxiety and relaxes the body and mind. It does this by stimulating serotonin production while reducing cortisol levels, which leads to stress and depression. It also increases metabolic functions in the body and speeds up recovery from stress factors.
Acupuncture increases natural opioid production
Acupuncture also triggers the release of happy hormones, like endorphins. Endorphins, along with other hormones, such as enkephalin, endomorphin, dynorphin, and serotonin, activate pathways in your brain that relieve the sensation of pain. The release of these four opioids results in an inducing analgesic effect and is used alternatively in clinical trials for patients with acute and chronic pain.
Acupuncture relieves muscle tension and improves blood circulation in the head/ neck
By stimulating the stiff muscles in the head, scalp, and neck, more blood circulation is brought to those areas and muscle tensions are relieved. Acupuncture activates regions in the brain, modulates blood flow in the brain, and regulates signaling pathways in order to avoid oxidative stress and inflammation. This is also why acupuncture is highly recommended and used therapeutically for post-stroke rehabilitation and also for stroke prevention.
Acupuncture regulates hormones
Acupuncture has the ability to balance and regulate hormones naturally, without the increased risks of deadly side effects in synthetic hormone therapy. For example, hormone therapy used to ease menopause symptoms can result in increased risks of stroke, certain cancers, and heart attacks. Many clinical trials have also shown that acupuncture is effective in regulating hormones and improving fertility. Acupuncture has successfully treated patients with PCOS by regulating the pituitary gland to balance hormone production and improve their chance of getting pregnant. In another research, treatment of Premature ovarian failure (POF), acupuncture successfully increased fertility, regulated estrogen levels, and downregulated FSH levels in the tested subjects.
Treat your headaches/ migraines in NYC at Hima Acupuncture
Hima Acupuncture is a premier acupuncture service with 2 offices in Flatiron, NoMad, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Owner and acupuncturist, Snow Xia L.Ac, has successfully helped hundreds of clients reclaim their health, including the Broadway and Cirque du Soleil community. She has been recognized as one of the top acupuncturists in NYC for three consecutive years. It's her passion to help busy New Yorkers take control of their own health while living ambitious lives.
If you are interested to learn more about how acupuncture can help with your headaches and migraines, feel free to contact us at : email@example.com
*Research assistant: Alejandra Villaran