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Can Acupuncture Help Your Headaches?

woman headache acupuncture

3 Types of Headaches

At some point in your life, you have probably experienced at least one of these three common types of headaches. Acupuncture offers a very effective way to reduce the pain and frequency of these headaches.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are also called "hatband headaches" because you may feel as if you are wearing a hat that is too tight when you have one of these headaches. Symptoms of tension headaches include tightness or pressure that extends from your forehead to the back of your head, and sore shoulder, scalp and neck muscles. Stress can often cause this common type of headache.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches cause severe throbbing pain, usually on just one side of your head. The pain is so severe that you may not be able to go to work or school. Migraine headaches can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people have warning signs, called auras, that occur before the migraine develops. Common auras include temporary vision loss, speech problems, pins and needles sensation in the arms and legs, or flashing lights and shapes in your field of vision. Migraines may last for a few hours or as long as three days.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches occur when your sinuses become inflamed due to a cold, infection or allergy. Increased pressure in the forehead, eyes, cheekbones and nose is one of the most common symptoms of the headaches. Other symptoms may include nasal congestion, fever, yellow or green discharge, post-nasal drip or pain in the upper teeth. Sinus headaches can be chronic in some cases.

Do you suffer from frequent headaches? Headache pain can affect the quality of your life and your ability to enjoy your favorite activities particularly if your headaches are chronic. Acupuncture, an ancient healing technique first practiced in China, can relieve your symptoms naturally.

What is Acupuncture?

A life force called "Qi" runs through your body. If that life force becomes blocked at some point, a variety of unpleasant symptoms can occur, such as headache, backache, depression, nausea and insomnia. Acupuncturists clear the blockages by placing very thin needles in your body. Once the flow is restored, symptoms tend to decrease.

How Can Acupuncture Help My Headaches?

Acupuncture treatments reduce headache pain in several ways. An acupuncture session can:

  • Trigger the release of endorphins. These natural chemicals produced by your pituitary gland and central nervous system reduce pain, improve immune system function and help you feel more positive. When you are happier, your pain threshold may increase.
  • Ease muscle tension. Muscle tension can make tension and migraine headaches worse. Acupuncture treatment helps the muscles relax, which eases pain.
  • Affect the part of your brain that deals with pain. Acupuncture offers long-lasting results that can help your brain regulate and process pain.
  • Improve your state of mind. People who visit acupuncturists report less depression, anxiety and stress. When you feel calm and relaxed, the stressors that can cause or contribute to headaches are less likely to trigger one.
  • Reduce nausea: Regular treatments may help you manage nausea, a symptom that frequently accompanies migraine headaches.
  • Decrease inflammation. Inflammation is a contributing factor if your headaches are caused by sinusitis or other illnesses and infections. Acupuncture eliminates inflammation, reducing painful headache symptoms.
  • Improve blood flow. Doctors believe that changes in blood flow in brain arteries cause migraines. Acupuncture treatment is effective at improving circulation and may help relieve migraine pain.

Does Acupuncture Really Work?

Multiple research studies have proven that acupuncture is effective in treating tension headaches. In one study of people who suffered from tension headaches, participants either received real acupuncture treatment or fake treatment. The frequency of headaches decreased by half when the participants received actual acupuncture treatment. In another study, people who received acupuncture treatments experienced fewer migraine days, less severe migraines and increased pressure pain thresholds.

What Happens During Acupuncture Treatment?

During treatment, your acupuncturist places needles in your body at the site of blockages. Needles may not necessarily be placed in the head, depending on the type of headaches you experience. For example, during a migraine, the arteries in the brain dilate and stretch, causing pain. Practitioners often use acupuncture points in the lower body, rather than the head or neck, to prevent dilation of these arteries.

When Will I Notice Results?

You will probably begin to feel better after your first visit to an acupuncturist, although it may take several weeks or months to receive the full benefits of treatment. Once your condition has improved, occasional follow-up visits will help you maintain your results.

Are you interested in learning how acupuncture can help you deal with headache pain? Call us today and schedule a visit.


Cochrane: Acupuncture for Tension-Type Headache, 4/19/16


Neurological Sciences: Acupuncture in Primary Headache Treatment, 5/11


University of North Carolina: UNC study: Acupuncture is Helpful When Added to Standard Medical Treatment for Headache, 10/6/05


Livescience: What is Acupuncture, 3/5/15


American Headache Society: Types of Headaches


University of Michigan: Chinese acupuncture affects brain's ability to regulate pain


Headache: Traditional Acupuncture in Migraine: a Controlled, Randomized Study


Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture for Frequent Migraine, 3/23/15