How Acupuncture Can Relieve Headaches

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Millions of Americans live with headaches that cause minor to severe pain. From migraines to cluster headaches, they can interfere with your day, making it difficult to complete daily tasks. While over-the-counter medications can help relieve headaches, research has proven that acupuncture is a safe, effective, and natural way to ease headaches. 

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine healing technique that people have used for over 3,000 years to help alleviate pain, stress, and improve other ailments. This technique involves inserting thin needles into specific areas of the body –– or acupuncture points –– with the goal of stimulating “nerves, muscles and connective tissue” (Mayo Clinic). Traditionally, acupuncture’s goal is to rebalance one’s qi (chee), also known as energy. Acupuncture therapy “can release blocked qi in the body and stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems” (University of California). Today, the ancient practice is common throughout the world for effective pain relief and therapy for several other ailments. According to the University of California San Diego Medical School Center for Integrative Medicine, acupuncture has demonstrated positive effects on the nervous system, endocrine, immune, cardiovascular, and digestive systems.

How Acupuncture Helps Relieve Headaches

Acupuncture works by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. The acupuncturist strategically places very fine needles into specific points, thus activating and releasing pain-fighting chemicals into the body. Acupuncture also affects the part of the brain that controls serotonin, a chemical that affects our moods. In fact, many people report feeling relaxed and energized after the procedure (Mayo Clinic). According to Harvard Medical School, several large-scale studies proved that acupuncture was effective in treating headaches, as well as other pain. In one study, acupuncture helped reduce the number of days patients experienced tension headaches. 

When to Get Acupuncture for Headaches

If headaches –– whether they’re tension headaches or migraines –– are a common feature of your day, then you may want to consider acupuncture. Acupuncture is ideal if you’re looking for a natural remedy, as opposed to chemical pain relievers, such as pills or Botox. Results vary from person to person. You may notice improvement immediately, or it may take a few weeks to notice a difference. Before beginning acupuncture, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to make sure you’re a good candidate for it.

What to Expect

Acupuncture typically takes place in a clinic with a licensed acupuncturist, such as Dr. Sonya Patel. Before you begin treatment, you’ll discuss your health history as well as your goals for acupuncture. During treatment, the acupuncturist will have you lie down and then place sterilized needles into areas of your body, but not necessarily in your scalp. There are over 400 acupuncture points on the body and there is a combination of acupuncture points that your acupuncturist will select to relieve and prevent the pain. The needles remain in place for 20-30 minutes. Patients typically feel relaxed after their treatments. It is important to avoid heavy lifting and exercise and focus on hydration after your acupuncture sessions. 


The University of California.

Harvard Medical School.,brain%20chemical%20involved%20with%20mood.

Mayo Clinic. Acupuncture – Mayo Clinic