Headache Relief with Traditional Chinese Medicine
Headaches…are a headache—they’re painful, terrible for your quality of life, and awful for productivity. Moreover, they’re complicated—there are over 150 types of headaches. Just as no two people are the same, so are no two headaches.
Our acupuncturists know how to design treatments specific to your health history and your particular type of headache. They’ll use all the tools of TCM—acupuncture, cupping and gua sha, herbal medicine, and nutrition—to combat your headaches and help get you back to pain free living.
Read on to learn more about the types of headaches we treat, their causes, and our evidence-based approach. You can also see some typical treatment plans for headaches.
A Holistic Approach to Headache Management and Prevention
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a variety of holistic treatments of headaches. Your acupuncturist will work with you to help you see patterns in headache onset, make dietary recommendations, ensure you are sleeping well, and help with preventative care.
Acupuncture for Headaches
Does acupuncture help headaches? Yes, acupuncture is very beneficial for the treatment of headaches. In fact, health insurers usually cover acupuncture for the treatment of headaches. If you’d like, we can check your insurance benefits. We’re in-network with CareFirst/BlueCross, Aetna, and the VA Community Choice Network.
Your acupuncturist will select acupuncture points for a headache based on the location of your headaches. You can expect to get a combination of local acupuncture points (such as yintang, located in the middle of your forehead for a frontal headache) and distal acupuncture points (such as ST-44 on your foot for a frontal headache).
How does Acupuncture Help Headaches?
Acupuncture helps to relieve pain in active headaches, as well as to keep future headaches from coming on. Acupuncture improves blood flow and can help with vasodilation. Acupuncture also releases endorphins and balances the nervous system, which can help to keep you from getting headaches in the first place.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Headaches
Chinese herbs are often prescribed for patients who suffer from frequent headaches. We prescribe Chinese herbs for headaches based on each individual’s constitution, symptoms, and primary TCM pattern. If a deficiency is causing the headaches, the typical course of herbs is usually 3–6 months. If the headaches are caused by an excess, the course of treatment may be a little shorter.
Herbal remedies for headaches
The classical headache herb we often use in TCM herbal formulas for headaches is chuan xiong. This herb is amazing for pain in the head and is used to treat the headache symptom—not necessarily the root cause of the headaches. Chinese herb formulas for headaches work best when they address the root cause as well as the symptoms.
Cupping for Headaches
Cupping Placement for Headaches
When cupping is used to relieve headaches, cups are usually applied to the back of the neck and upper back. This increases circulation and can help to both relieve and prevent future headaches.
Gua Sha for Headaches
Gua sha therapy for headaches is one part of a multifaceted approach to head pain. Gua sha for headaches is best done in conjunction with acupuncture. Our acupuncturists will treat the face with gua sha on the forehead and cheeks. This will promote blood flow, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and release serotonin.
Nutrition and Headaches
Can poor nutrition cause headaches? Yes, poor nutrition can be a contributing factor of headaches. Proper nourishment is vital for headache prevention. We advise patients who suffer from frequent headaches to be sure to eat 3 normal-sized meals per day. We find that headaches can be more common in patients who skip meals.
We also give nutrition guidance for patients based on their constitution. And—we also work with vegan patients to make sure they are getting adequate plant based protein in their diet.
Nutritional Deficiencies That Cause Headaches
Nutritional deficiencies have been linked to headaches. The most common are deficiencies in vitamin D, B vitamins, and magnesium. Dehydration and too much caffeine intake can also contribute to headaches.
Your acupuncturist will work with you to evaluate if you could have a nutritional deficiency. They’ll make a treatment plan that incorporates nutrition and supplements or Chinese herbs to help bring you headache relief quickly.
TCM Treatment Plan for Headaches
Regular acupuncture treatments are important to both relieve headache pain and prevent future headaches from happening. If you’ve been experiencing frequent headaches, you can expect to come in about once per week for six weeks for acupuncture.
We can also prescribe Chinese herbs for headaches during those treatments if your specific headache type would benefit from them. We’ll also likely use cupping or gua sha to relieve headache pain during the six-week course of treatment. Depending on the type and severity of headache, this six-week course of treatment may be enough, but for some patients less frequent continued treatments will be needed to keep symptoms under control.
Your Acupuncture Treatment Plan
Your journey to better health begins before you step through our doors. You'll be able to easily schedule an appointment online as well as fill out your health history form before you arrive at our office—maximizing conversational and treatment time with your acupuncturist.
At your first appointment, your acupuncturist will discuss your health history, get input from you on what your treatment goals are, and develop a treatment plan. They'll then treat you using whatever services are best suited to your specific symptoms.
Although plans vary depending on the patient, most typically run for four weeks. At the end of your first visit, your acupuncturist will give you a written treatment plan. At subsequent visits, you'll discuss your symptoms and whether they've improved, regressed, or stayed the same. Your acupuncturist will adjust the treatment plan based on your input and their ongoing diagnosis of your condition.
When your main complaint is resolved, you can reduce treatment or work on another symptom. Still thinking it over? Take a look at our Testimonials page to see what other patients are saying.
Let Us Help You Take Control of Your Headaches!
You deserve to feel better. Don’t let headaches keep you from spending time with people you love, doing activities you enjoy, or being productive at work.
If you’re ready to start feeling better, head to our Booking page and schedule your first appointment. If you’d like us to check your insurance benefits, we’d be happy to take care of that for you. We’re in-network with CareFirst/BlueCross, Aetna, and the VA Community Choice Network.
The Cherry Blossom Team