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Treating Headaches and Migraines with Acupuncture

How acupuncture can help relieve your specific type of headache

Headaches can range from a dull pain to a sharp, debilitating migraine. The treatment with acupuncture for each type of headache is unique. Not only do I look at the symptoms you are experiencing from the headache, I also look for the cause of the pain. It may be related to tightness in the neck or jaw, seasonal allergies, digestion, emotions, diet, illness, injury, trauma, hormones, or something else. Acupuncture is able to help address both the symptoms (pain, vision issues, etc.) and the root cause of problem (examples listed above). It is helpful if you are experiencing headaches or migraines, to track when you have the headaches so any possible connections can be made. It also is helpful if you can describe your discomfort in detail, to such detail as, where you feel the pain on your head (forehead, sinuses, top of head, temples, everywhere on the head, tight pressure around the head) and what the pain feels like (sharp and stabbing or dull and achy). All of these details will help better direct your acupuncture treatment for migraines and headaches.

Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines

An acupuncture treatment for someone experiencing headaches would start off with an initial consultation and past health history, then points would be selected based on your unique condition. Usually for headaches and migraines points are located on the hands, arms, legs, and feet. The acupuncture needles stay in for 28-30 minutes and a whole session lasts from 45- 60 minutes. If the headaches are caused by muscle tension from the neck or back, cupping may also be used in a session. Cupping is the use of suction cups to release muscle tension and increase circulation.

Efficacy of Acupuncture for Migraine Treatment

A systematic review of clinical trials on acupuncture used to treat migraines found that acupuncture reduced frequency of migraines and was as effective as prophylactic medication. This review can be found in the Cochrane Library, the authors state, “The available evidence suggests that a course of acupuncture consisting of at least six treatment sessions can be a valuable option for people with migraine.” They also summarize the finding in plain language as, “Our findings about the number of days with migraine per month can be summarized as follows. If people have six days with migraine per month on average before starting treatment, this would be reduced to five days in people receiving only usual care, to four days in those receiving fake acupuncture or a prophylactic drug, and to three and a half days in those receiving true acupuncture.” (1).

When to Seek Acupuncture Treatment

While acupuncture can be helpful in reducing the pain while you have a headache or migraine, it is important and can be more beneficial to get treatment when you are not experiencing a headache or when the pain is minor. This is because acupuncture helps to treat the root of the issue and therefore reduces the intensity and frequency of future headaches and migraines. The treatment plan for headaches and migraines depends on your unique set of circumstances, including, age, how long you have had the headaches, intensity of headaches, and the root cause. In some cases doctors may not be able to determine the cause of a headache or migraine. Acupuncture can still be helpful in treating these cases because acupuncture looks at the body through a different lens than western medicine. I recommend for new patients to have six sessions weekly to start your treatment and then your treatment plan can be reassessed. If you are experiencing debilitating headaches daily, you may be asked to come in more frequently. No one should have to suffer from headaches or migraines, schedule your appointment today and see how acupuncture can help.

All the best, Kearney


  1. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA, Vickers A, White AR. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD001218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub3.

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