How Acupuncture Can Relieve Your Headache Pains
by Colleen McMahon
Headaches are one of the most common health complaints. The pain can range from the dull throb of a tension headache to the searing pain of a migraine, complete with nausea and light sensitivity. While there are plenty of over the counter and prescription painkillers available, they have potential side effects and interactions with other medications. Some even cause “rebound” headaches as they wear off.
Acupuncture can provide an effective alternative treatment for headache. Acupuncture is based on the Chinese medical approach, which focuses on the flow of “qi” or life energy through the body. Practitioners believe that many medical symptoms are caused by the qi channels being blocked or in need of redirection. Acupuncture is the placement of very thin needles at various points on the body to accomplish this. It is an ancient traditional treatment, does not have side effects, and is safe when provided by a skilled, trained acupuncturist.
Many sufferers of headaches, particularly migraines, have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment. But how does it work? Researchers don’t know, although there are many theories.
One possibility is the simple placebo effect. That is, the patient believes it is going to work, and therefore it does. But other research suggests there is more going on. In one study, patients being treated for acupuncture received CAT scans which showed changes in the area of the brain that processes pain after the needles were inserted.
Another theory is that acupuncture takes advantage of the fact that the body can be overwhelmed by stimulus and begins to block some of the sensations. The series of tiny pricks from inserting the needles can be enough distraction to cause the brain to focus on that pain rather than the headache.
Acupuncture involves a good deal of relaxation and rest during the process, which can itself help the headache, particularly a tension headache. It breaks the cycle of pain causing the patient to instinctively tighten muscles, which in turn increases the pain, which then causes more muscle tenseness.
Whatever the cause for the effectiveness of acupuncture, the fact is that it helps many patients who otherwise suffer from tension or migraine headaches. If seeking this treatment, make sure you go to a trained practitioner. In fact, many medical providers and insurers offer referrals to acupuncturists, so you may want to ask your primary physician for a recommendation.