More than 45 million Americans (one in six) suffer from chronic headaches, 20 million of whom are women. Scientific research shows that acupuncture can be more effective than medication in reducing the severity and frequency of chronic headaches.
The pain that headache and migraine sufferers endure can impact every aspect of their lives. A widely accepted form of treatment for headaches, acupuncture can offer powerful relief without the side effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause.
Headaches and migraines, as well as their underlying causes have been treated successfully with acupuncture and Oriental medicine for thousands of years. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be used alone in the management and treatment of headaches, or as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
Oriental Medicine does not recognize migraines and chronic headaches as one particular syndrome. Instead, it aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of of techniques such as acupuncture, tui-na massage, and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, your diagnosis and treatment will depend on a number of variables including:
- Is the headache behind your eyes and temples, or is it located more on the top of your head?
- When do your headaches occur (i.e. night, morning, after eating)?
- Do you find that a cold compress or a darkened room can alleviate some of the pain?
- Is the pain dull and throbbing, or sharp and piercing?
Your answers to these questions will help your practitioner create a treatment plan specifically for you. The basic foundation for Oriental medicine is that there is a life energy flowing through the body which is termed Qi (pronounced chee). This energy flows through the body on channels known as meridians that connect all of our major organs. According to Oriental medical theory, illness or pain arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced. Acupuncture stimulates specific points located on or near the surface of the skin to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions that cause aches and pains or illness.
The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. Some headaches, migraines and related symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.
Headaches Dramatically Reduced by Acupuncture
Since the early seventies, studies around the globe have suggested that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines and headaches. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center analyzed the results of more than 30 studies on acupuncture as a pain reliever for a variety of ailments, including chronic headaches. They found that acupuncture decreases pain with fewer side effects and can be less expensive than medication. Researchers found that using acupuncture as an alternative for pain relief also reduced the need for post-operative pain medications.
In a study published in the November 1999 issue of Cephalalgia, scientists evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of migraines and recurrent headaches by systematically reviewing 22 randomized controlled trials. A total of 1,042 patients were examined. It was found that headache and migraine sufferers experienced significantly more relief from acupuncture than patients who were administered “sham” acupuncture.
A clinical observation, published in a 2002 edition of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, studied 50 patients presenting with various types of headaches who were treated with scalp acupuncture. The results of this study showed that 98 percent of patients treated with scalp acupuncture experienced no headaches or only occasional, mild headaches in the six months following care.
In a case study, published in the June 2003 Issue of Medical Acupuncture, doctors found that acupuncture resulted in the resolution or reduction in the frequency and severity of cluster headaches, and a decrease or discontinuation of pain medications. It was concluded that acupuncture can be used to provide sustained relief from cluster headaches and to stimulate the body’s natural production of adrenal cortisol to aid in discontinuing corticosteroids.
According to the July 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal, a randomized controlled trial in Germany found that acupuncture cut tension headache rates almost in half. Researchers divided 270 patients who reported similarly severe tension headaches into three groups for the study. Over the project’s eight-week period, one group received traditional acupuncture, one received only minimal acupuncture, and the third group received neither treatment. Those receiving the traditional acupuncture reported headache rates of nearly half that of those who received no treatments, suffering 7 fewer days of headaches. The minimal acupuncture group suffered 6.6 fewer days, and the non-acupuncture group suffered 1.5 fewer days. The improvements continued for months after the treatments were concluded, rising slightly as time went on.
Do you or someone you know suffer from headaches or migraines?
Reach out to us to find out how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!
Original article from staff of AcuFinder, here.
We believe that health is an ongoing choice, not just a thoughtless assumption. That it is a state of mind, not a label to be handed out by ‘experts’ or a rarefied condition of perfect balance. That health is dynamic balance, flexibility, and most important, is measured not by your level of painlessness, but by your quality of life.
We believe that your health cannot be outsourced. You are the Chairman and CEO of your own health, the Director of your own Human Resources. That, as your own supervisor, you always have choices, and the ultimate decision about any path you take never rests with anyone but you. That you are the best judge of your own health, and what may be healthy for one person is not necessarily healthy for the next.
We believe that medical practitioners are useful and may occasionally be all that you need when things go off-track, but that if they don’t ‘fix’ you, it is your responsibility to heal yourself.
We believe that you should be prepared to ask questions of medical authorities, not because they are wrong or don’t care, but because they can never be as interested in getting you well as you are. And you should be prepared for the fact that they may indeed be wrong. After all, knowledge and wisdom are accumulated not by being correct from the outset, but by testing hypotheses, and every diagnosis you are given is simply a theory that is being tested…on you.
We believe that you are not a diagnosis, not a treatment, and that you cannot be categorized by the codes insurance companies use to name your chief complaint and decide whether or not it is worthy of being covered by your policy. That you are not a piece of meat on a table, a skin-bag full of blood to which pharmaceuticals may be added while you passively hope for the results of strange tests given by people you don’t know.
We believe that “diagnosis” is simply another word to classify your symptoms, but that word does not encapsulate the experience you are having, nor does it define your prognosis for improvement. We believe that everyone has the potential to be the exception to the rule, the aberration relative to others with the same condition, the one who bucks the trend and thrives in a way that may not have been predicted.
We believe that if you aren’t confident in what someone tells you about you, that some part of you may know better. That you may need a second opinion, or third, or fourth. And that you owe it to yourself to be sure all parts of you are in agreement about any course of action where your body is concerned.
We believe that doctors, homeopaths, nurses, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, masseuses, shamans, pharmacists, astrologers, medicine women and men, nutritionists, naturopaths, priests, Ayurvedic practitioners, psychotherapists, yoga instructors, and tarot card readers are all fine resources, but in an age where information is both powerful and ubiquitous, you have a responsibility to become an expert on your own condition. That, when in pain (and otherwise), you should use your own power and the network of those who care about you to find out all that you can about your own situation, recommended diet, exercise, treatment options, and connect with other people all over the world who may be having the same experience.
We believe that, when you get right down to the root of it, the voice inside of you always has a positive intention, and that symptoms are not just something to be pushed aside, ignored, or “cured.” Rather, they may be seen as vital communications from your body about needed action, perhaps action in some other part of your body or your life that were not getting adequate attention. Setbacks and unintended consequences may also be lifesavers, temporarily limiting you in order to save you from a more ignominious fate that you may have otherwise suffered.
We believe that you are made up of the same stuff as the earth, the sky, the plants, the clouds, the stars…but not so much of plastics and parabens and pesticides and prescription medications. That innate health is your birthright because health is being in-sync with the world around you, the seasons, the food that grows where you do. That the universe is flowing through you, and when that flow stagnates, so does your health. That the best way to return to health is to welcome back into you what you have always been made up of. That like engenders like, good follows good, and nature knows best.
We believe that our beliefs are universal. That staying close to the rules and natural products of the earth are not the views of some ancient, alternative, or hippie lifestyle, but a sane and healthful way of living on this planet. That we all know this inside of ourselves, and that these words only seem foreign when we’ve lost touch with our health.
In a fluorescent-lit exam room, Col. Rochelle Wasserman sticks ballpoint-size pins in the ears of Sgt. Rick Remalia.
Remalia broke his back, hip and pelvis during a rollover caused by a pair of rocket-propelled grenades in Afghanistan. He still walks with a cane and suffers from mild traumatic brain injury. Pain is an everyday occurrence, which is where the needles come in.
“I’ve had a lot of treatment, and this is the first treatment that I’ve had where I’ve been like, OK, wow, I’ve actually seen a really big difference,” he says.
‘Let’s Give It A Shot’
Army doctors have been told by the top brass to rethink their “pill for every ill” approach to treating pain. For the 47,000 troops who’ve been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of the new options include less tried and true methods, like massage and chiropractic treatments. The military hopes to win over skeptics, many of them in uniform.
Wasserman is the top doctor for the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Campbell, Ky. To her own surprise, she’s also now the unit’s physician trained to do acupuncture.
“I actually had a demonstration of acupuncture on me, and I’m not a spring chicken,” she says, “and it didn’t make me 16 again, but it certainly did make me feel better than I had, so I figured, hey … let’s give it a shot with our soldiers here.”
In recent years, military doctors have turned to acupuncture in special pain clinics and for troops in battle zones. Last year, the Army surgeon general began making the alternative treatments more widely available.
Steering Away From Painkillers
Remalia says his headaches have disappeared, and he’s relying less on his cabinet full of pain medication. To Col. Kevin Galloway, that’s mission accomplished. He’s in charge of carrying out recommendations from the Army’s Pain Management Task Force, which focused heavily on unconventional therapies.
“You can throw fairly cheap pharmaceuticals at the problem now and push the problem to someone else later if you’re not really working on what the genesis of the pain is,” he says.
Galloway says if soldiers get hooked on high-powered painkillers, the Department of Veterans Affairs may be dealing with the side effects for decades to come. Already, at least 40 percent of veterans entering the VA system are coping with pain.
New academic studies from places like Duke University back up acupuncture as an alternative to medication.
But Harriet Hall, a former Air Force flight surgeon, shares the skepticism found in many corners of the medical community.
“We call that ‘quack-ademic’ medicine when it gets into medical schools,” she says.
The way she reads the science, acupuncture does no more than a sugar pill. To offer a placebo, she says, is unethical.
“The military has led the way on trauma care and things like that, but the idea that putting needles in somebody’s ear is going to substitute for things like morphine is just ridiculous,” Hall says.
A Chance At Normalcy
As some top medical officers put it, though, there’s nothing like pain to make someone open-minded. Staff Sgt. Jermaine Louis says he’s tried it all.
“Physical therapy, occupational therapy, PTSD group, anger group, stress group … everything,” he says.
Louis is trying to overcome a traumatic brain injury that followed him home from Iraq five years ago. He’s still dependent on medication, and the soon-to-retire infantryman says he’s scared.
“[Scared] that I have to be on it for the rest of my life and [that] I will get accustomed just to taking them, and I don’t want to be that way,” Louis says. “I want to be normal like everybody else.”
But if being normal depends on regular acupuncture treatments, the Defense Department has more convincing to do. TRICARE — the military’s own health plan for service members and retirees — still doesn’t cover acupuncture.
Cardiologist William Davis seems to think so, and has published a book supporting his findings. He says that a protein added to modern wheat, gliadin, acts like an opiate in the body, which can also make wheat and wheat products both addictive and poisonous.
A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine out April 17 provides evidence steroid injections for back pain are no more effective than a placebo. Because the long-term benefits of surgery remain unproven and pain medicines often have serious side effects, doctors have increasingly turned to steroid injections to treat lumbosacral radiculopathy, a common cause of back pain. The researchers conclude that steroids may provide some short-term analgesic effect, but that the improvement in all of the patients was mainly due to normal healing. The best thing for back pain, according to the study’s author? Exercise. See a quick summary of this research from the New York Times’ website.