Headache is a very common complaint and very broad in terms of possible causes. The vast majority of headaches are not life-threatening and their main repercussion is the pain itself. Acupuncture is an effective treatment for headaches, especially when combined with specific acupressure techniques. There is almost always a muscular component to headaches and unless this is addressed by acupressure and tuina (Chinese massage techniques) there will be limited success. Even powerful western medical drugs do not always work for headaches because they do not address the skeletomuscular component. We have had great clinical success treating headaches even when western medical intervention is not effective. If you’d like to book an acupuncture appointment to treat your headache, click here.
Headaches can be broken down into the following categories:
The standard description of migraine has changed somewhat over the years in western medicine. Previously certain criteria had to be met for a headache to be classified as a migraine. The pain had to be on one side of the head, it had to be preceded by an “aura” (changes in vision such as spots, flashes of light, or geometric patterns), the headache had to be accompanied by nausea before or during the headache itself, and was not necessarily but commonly accompanied by an aversion to bright light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia). This classic “textbook” migraine pattern has been broadened to accommodate a wider range of symptoms. Now any recurring, chronic headache pattern is considered to be within the migraine category – with or without all the above symptoms. Dietary triggers can be a major factor in migraines and a careful examination of one’s diet is always indicated for migraine. By their very nature migraines can change in how they manifest over time. Depending on the brain area or nerves involved a migraine can mimic a stroke or can involve no head pain at all and just cause digestive problems (abdominal migraine). All types of migraines however are described and effectively treated within the Chinese medical model.
True “sinus” headaches are actually quite rare. A migraine will cause generalized swelling in the cranium, including the tissues lining the sinus cavities. Mucus then accumulates and pressure, pain, and even infections follow. However, unless the underlying migraine pattern is treated, even such drastic measures as sinus surgery are ineffective. Another possible cause of sinus headache is allergies, which cause accumulation of mucus, causing pressure and pain in the sinuses. There are specific acupuncture protocols to treat allergies.
A typical tension headache arises from stress, just as its name implies. The pain is usually described as a “band” of pain around the head, from the forehead to the temples to the back of the neck. Tension headache is differentiated from migraines by the lack of nausea or visual disturbance, but again this distinction has become less rigid recently.
As their name implies, cluster headaches occur at intervals for several days and weeks with periods of remission in between. There will be several headaches a day, lasting up to an hour, and the pain is excruciating. In fact, they are nicknamed “suicide headaches” because of their intensity. For unknown reasons, they are much more common in men. The pain is usually on one side and typically centers around the eye, but can radiate to any part of the head or shoulder. Acupuncture treatment can be extremely effective for cluster headaches.