Headache disorders are among the most common illnesses in the United States and, according to the Wold Health Organization, the 3rd highest cause of disability from work in the world. They affect every economic class, race, geographic location, and sex. There are many types of headaches, but these are some of the most common:
Tension--usually a dull or pressure-type of pain on both sides or back of the head. Related to muscle tension of the neck, upper back, jaws.
Migraine--typically one-sided with a pulsing or throbbing quality. Often with nausea and vomiting, light sensitivity, vision changes. More common in women, likely due to hormonal influences on migraines.
Chronic Daily Headaches, also known as Rebound Headaches--this is the 2nd most common type of headache disorder and is related to overuse of analgesic pain medicine (tylenol, excedrin, and prescription medications included). This type of headache is often a component of migraines and tension headaches as those progress into daily or almost daily pain. Pain is often worse first thing in the morning.
Others include-sinus headaches, TMJ pain, cluster headaches, etc.
How does acupuncture improve headaches?
Acupuncture needles cause dilation of blood vessels, which results in improved blood flow, relaxing tense muscles. Specific tight muscles can be targeted with trigger point release. The needles also release chemicals that help your sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic nervous systems balance each other correctly, resulting in reduced pain. Acupuncture also improves sleep which is a well known trigger for people suffering from chronic headaches, particularly migraines. Cupping is extremely helpful as well.
During the treatment phase, we can identify other lifestyle factors that need to be adjusted to improve your headache pattern. These include:
Getting adequate and restorative rest
Identifying your unique triggers (lack of sleep, certain foods, menstrual cycle, red wine, etc)
Eliminating or severely reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
Coping with stressors
Decreasing use of pain medications that could be causing rebound headache
Headache disorders are among my favorite things to treat because the success rate is so high. I usually see an improvement in the number of headaches within 3 or 4 visits.