While popping an aspirin may do the trick for the occasional headache, over-the-counter drugs and even prescription medications are not a long-term solution for chronic headache pain. Three out of every four adults suffer from tension headaches, the most common type of headache. While not everyone with tension headaches will experience recurring pain, for those who do, they may suffer from severe pain as frequently as three to four times a week. People with severe tension headaches may feel as though their heads are trapped in a vise, and shoulders and necks may also ache.
In addition to tension headaches, many individuals also suffer from migraines and cluster headaches. Neurologists believe that migraines are caused by changes in the brain’s blood flow and nerve cell activity. Genetics also play a major role, since 70% of migraine victims report at least one other relative with the same problem. Cluster headaches, while less common, are also severe. As the name suggests, these headaches come in “clusters”, with individuals experiencing one to eight headaches during a cluster attack. Pain is typically isolated to one side of the head and can be very severe; the attack starts abruptly and lasts from 30 to 60 minutes.
If you suffer from recurring headache pain, acupuncture is a drug-free treatment option that can help manage this pain and may even reduce the frequency of future headaches. Research suggests that neurochemical changes may trigger tension headaches, and that changes to the brain’s blood flow and nerve cell activity may also play a role in migraine and cluster headache pain. Acupuncture treatments help balance the body’s nervous system and remove blockages that are affecting the natural flow of blood and neurochemicals through the body.
During an acupuncture treatment, a certified acupuncturist will insert long, thin needles into specific pressure points on the body. Acupuncture needles signal the brain to adjust imbalanced neurochemical levels, reducing the occurrence of chronic headaches. Since increased muscle tension along the neck and upper back is also common in individuals with headaches, reducing this tension through acupuncture in an integral part of managing chronic headache and migraine pain.
Acupuncture treatments can also be beneficial for preventing the occurrence of migraine and headache pain in the first place. For example, activating acupuncture pressure points along the forearms and lower legs helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system as well as decrease muscle tension.
“Headache: When to Worry, What to Do.” Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. June 2009.