Headaches are good puzzles for acupuncturists to solve. That’s because we use all kinds of weird and wonderful signs and symptoms (everything from your bowel movement to how you sleep) to work out what’s causing them. From there we have several different ways of approaching the relief.
Acupuncture treats pain as a sign of imbalance, so we work out what you’re eating, drinking or doing to aggravate cause a deficiency or obstruction within an energy channel, which in turn causes pain. We can give you advice on what to do less of and what to do more of as well as give you a relaxing treatment to provide relief and a feeling of wellbeing.
The descriptions in the earliest Chinese medicine texts involve fine differentiations between various locations of headaches, the type of pain suffered (whether stabbing, boring, pressure) and whether or not the headaches are associated with other symptoms. So migraines, chronic daily headaches, cluster headaches, will be analysed within a traditional acupuncture framework in order to understand what’s going on with you personally.
During treatment we use points along energy meridians associated with different organs. If the headache is being caused by diet we’ll often use stomach and spleen points along the lower leg. If it’s been caused by a blockage around your sinuses due to a string of infections we might use some relieving points on your head. Headaches in women are often associated with the menstrual cycle, so treatment can give you the double whammy of a cured headache and PMT at the same time!
It might surprise you we talk a lot about what you eat and drink when assessing the cause of headaches the first place to look is hydration. 70% of headaches are due to a lack of pure water, and although this is a very simple fact, it’s one which is often overlooked. You should be trying to drink approximately two litres of fresh water a day, more if you’re exercising or working physically. If you’re a frequent headache sufferer, try this before anything else. Aim for two litres a day for five days and see how your headaches improve.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently carried out extensive studies into the treatment and management of headaches and in September 2012 reported in their guidelines ‘Diagnosis and Management of Headaches in Young People and Adults’ that acupuncture is the only proven method to prevent tension-type headaches and migraine. So, hopefully you’ll feel confident to give acupuncture a try.
By Sophie Webb