Persistent headaches can be debilitating, affecting one’s outlook, work and relationships.
These are not the types of headaches that disappear when you take a couple of ibuprofen. Instead, along with the awful pain, they can lead sufferers to seek relief in ways that result in costly but ineffective – or dangerous – treatments.
Acupuncture won’t solve every headache, but for some people, it provides the only relief they can find.
How acupuncture soothes headaches
A Western-trained medical doctor will tell you that headache pain is different than the type of pain you experience in an achy knee or sore back – and that they should be treated with completely different procedures.
A practitioner of acupuncture will agree that the types of pain are different, but that they can all be treated with a similar approach.
Acupuncture allows the release of negative and harmful energy from your body and increases the flow of positive, healthy energy. Treatment achieves a balance of an individual’s life energy, or qi, to encourage harmony which, at the same time, results in lowering or eliminating pain.
Such concepts, a foundation of Eastern medicine, are gaining more acceptance among Western doctors, mainly because they have been proved to work.
Studies show acupuncture is effective
For example, a 2017 published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that acupuncture reduced the number and duration of headaches in migraine patients. The study enrolled 249 people from 18 to 65 years old. About three-quarters were women. The results were controlled by giving some patients “sham” treatment with acupuncture needles that did not actually enter the skin. Another group was put on a waiting list for treatment.
A separate review of 12 trials involving 2,349 adults showed that nearly half the patients in the study groups experienced fewer severe tension headaches when treated with acupuncture as their headaches began.
“Acupuncture added to usual care or treatment of headaches only on onset (usually with pain-killers) in two large trials resulted in 48 in 100 participants having headache frequency at least halved, compared to 17 of 100 participants given usual care only,” said the study published in .
Treatment side-effects can be punishing
Of course we’re not talking about headaches that may be the result of a blow to the head, or that progressively worsen. If that happens, you should go immediately to a doctor’s office or emergency room to check for concussion or other serious symptoms.
But cites the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, which reports that approximately 1 out of 7 Americans is affected by migraine headaches, and migraine treatment is a leading cause of emergency department and outpatient visits.
And many therapies cause their own problems. writes that “pharmacological preventive therapy for migraine can be accompanied by fatigue, sleep interference, gastrointestinal effects, weight gain, and medication overuse.”
An article in Harvard Health Publishing that “acupuncture can be part of the solution to the immense problem of chronic pain and opiate addiction that is gripping our society.” As the article adds, “the practice of acupuncture has emerged as an important nondrug option that can help chronic pain patients avoid the use of potentially harmful medications, especially opiates with their serious risk of substance use disorder.”