Acupuncture has a great track record for headache treatment. NICE recommend it for treating both tension type headache and migraine. There are plenty more headache types beyond these two though…
Tension Type Headache: Frequently the causes are either emotional and stress based or muscular tension of neck, scalp or face. Acupuncture treatment for this type of headache is effective and involves calming and deactivating tension in neck and head muscles (trigger points).
Migraine: Pain is one sided, throbbing and often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. The aura associated with migraine is not just shimmering lights but also includes sensory symptoms such as numbness. Recent research suggests that migraineurs’ may have hyper excitable brain – in particular the visual cortex, which may explain why acupunctures sedative effects on the central nervous system can calm migraine.
Hemiplegic Migraine: If migraines are Alarming and uncomfortable hemiplegic migraines are straight up shocking. Symptoms are one-sided, similar in nature to a stroke including weakness and paralysis, nausea, dizziness, visual disturbances and throbbing pain.
Sinus headaches: The sinuses cover a large amount of your face from below the eye to above and across towards the ears. Pain can be felt through all these regions and even into the teeth and the top of the head – similar in presentation to trigeminal neuralgia. What differentiates the two is that bend-ing the head forward towards the ground often makes the sinus headache feel worse whilst the pain of trigeminal neuralgia is mostly not affected.
Cluster headache: Cluster headaches are extremely painful with frequent stabbing episodes. Pain tends to focus around and behind the eye, mi-micking the pain of trigeminal neuralgia. They are called cluster headaches because pain tends to cluster over time in numerous episodes. Certain muscles in the back of the neck can refer intense pain into the eye so these must be ruled out as an alternative cause. Although trial results for acupuncture treatment of cluster headaches are not great, it appears that this may be because most acupuncturists treat cluster headaches like headache or migraine, whereas treating it as a dysfunction of the trigeminal nerve may yield better results.
Occipital neuralgia: Nerves at the back of the head can refer pain over the back of the skull (occiput). Acupuncture can be effective at down regulating the pain signals and even more effective at releasing muscular tension at the back of the neck that may be compressing the occipital nerve.
Rebound Headaches: Quitting long term use of paracetamol, aspirin, triptans or opiod based pain killers can worsen headache symptoms, trapping the sufferer in a drug-dependent cycle. Caffeine can also create rebound headaches. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor – blood vessels tighten and increase blood pressure. If you regularly consume a lot of caffeine, then stop suddenly the blood vessels relax. The heart has to work harder to keep blood pumping round the body. In the short term going cold turkey can result in headaches and dizziness as the body adapts.
The Solution: Most headaches the solution lies in reducing systemic inflammation, stress, improving breathing, diet, reducing exposure to toxins – inside the house, environmentally and from food or drink sources, and releasing muscular tension. If you’d like to know more, you can download my headache treatment guide here: www.goweracupuncture.co.uk/swansea/headache-migraine
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