February 2010

Can Acupuncture Help My Headaches?

By Elliot Wagner, O.M.D., L.Ac., Doctor of Oriental Medicine

There are headaches and there are headaches. Nobody wants one; but some are clearly worse than others. Those I'm concerned about in this column are the ones that can stop normal life in its tracks. Unfortunately, too many people suffer from these headaches that can be depended upon to show up whenever the going gets hard, or simply appear every day to wreck your plans or send you to bed.

These headaches are classified as severe chronic orepisodic headaches: migraines, cluster headaches, persistent daily headaches, and others &mdsah; including medication rebound headaches. If you suffer from one of these, you already have tried every possible way to deal with them using the available Western medications, and you probably already know more than you need to know about them. Mypurposeisto describe to you how the headaches you have can be helped by acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a central part of Chinese medicine, a 3,000 year old medical system that includes traditional Chinese herbal medicine, massage, and other therapies. Its longevity and world wide growth are attributable to the fact that it treats many, many health conditions Western medicine struggles with; in particular pain. Chinese medicine is great at healing pain. Long ago the ancient Chinese discovered that the secret to healing is blood flow. They observed then that the healing power of the body is in the blood, and that is just as true today. If there is not enough blood going to a part of the body there will be weakness and the accumulation of debris. This in turn causes stagnancy in the blood, further weakness, and pain. You can have headache pain for ten years, and not improve no matter what you do, simply because there is poor blood circulation in the head and neck.

The purpose of acupuncture is to locate the area of the body where the blood flow is weak, and increase blood flow there. Acupuncture has the ability to open the small blood vessels, and to drive blood into the targeted area. And, the most remarkable fact about this medicine is that it relieves pain not by suppressing symptoms, but by doing what medicine should do — it heals. It works by actually supplying your body with life-giving oxygen, natural pain-killers, hormones, anti-inflammatories and mood-stabilizers that already are in the blood, so the body can heal itself. It goes to work on the pain immediately, and we expect the pain to be much less when you leave the office after your first treatment.