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Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines: An Integrated Approach



Headaches and migraines are common symptoms that respond well to acupuncture treatment. They can be classified based on pain location or cause, and while treatment methods are similar, they must be tailored to each specific type.


In treating headaches, acupoints in the corresponding reflex areas of the head are typically selected. Neck and back acupoints, such as from Tianzhu to Dashu region, are also frequently used, often presenting as tender or nodular points.


Numerous global clinical studies have validated acupuncture's effectiveness in treating headaches, particularly migraines and tension-type headaches. Its analgesic effects are widely recognized.


Different types of headaches exhibit specific characteristics, which should be considered in treatment. For instance, patients with tension-type headaches often exhibit significant tenderness in the trapezius muscle. Treating this area can markedly alleviate headache symptoms. When treating, it’s essential to examine and stimulate acupoints or reflex points on the trapezius, such as Tianzhu, Fengchi, Dazhui, Jianzhongshu, and Feishu on the neck and upper back.


Migraine patients often experience fullness or protrusion at the temples during attacks. Bleeding may occur after needling but typically results in pain relief. As treatment progresses, the tension at the temples normalizes, and bleeding diminishes, suggesting that some headaches may be related to abnormal local vascular tension.


Patients with low cerebral blood pressure often have sleep disorders, such as insomnia, hypersomnia, lack of concentration, memory decline, and emotional excitability, along with neck and shoulder injuries and muscle spasms. Acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or laser therapy can help normalize abnormal cerebral blood pressure. In some patients, cerebral blood pressure abnormalities are related to the position of the head and neck, termed “cervicocephalic positional vertigo,” which may affect certain visceral functions.


Therefore, acupuncture can be used to regulate headaches caused by high cerebral blood pressure. For instance, bloodletting acupuncture at the temples or other superficial temporal vessels can be effective. Headaches often associated with nausea or gastric discomfort suggest that stomach discomfort may be a cause or result of the headache. In such cases, acupoints for gastrointestinal disorders should be stimulated concurrently. Stimulation of Yintang, with the needle angled towards the tip of the nose for 2-3 mm, often leads to local skin reddening or slight bleeding after 20 minutes, indicating effective treatment.


For headaches with variable pain points or vague symptoms, treatment should not be limited to head acupoints. Often, stimulating central reflex zones at the extremities and combining specific acupoints suffices. For patients with headaches potentially caused by menstrual or reproductive issues, careful examination and stimulation of reflex points in the urinary-genital reflex area, such as Sanyinjiao, Yinlingquan, Ququan, and Xiaochangshu in the lower limbs and lumbosacral area, are necessary.


Auricular acupuncture offers prolonged stimulation and is suitable for patients with frequent headaches who cannot receive timely treatment. Combining auricular acupuncture with body acupuncture can enhance effectiveness, especially in patients who respond poorly to body acupuncture alone.


In conclusion, acupuncture treatment for headaches is a comprehensive process that requires selecting appropriate acupoints and treatment methods based on the type of headache, symptoms, and individual differences. Through meticulous observation and precise treatment, acupuncture can effectively alleviate headaches, offering comfort and relief to patients.

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