While most people experience an occasional headache, 50 million Americans suffer with chronic headaches. Whether the headaches are classified as tension-related (the most common) or migraines, they can range from disruptive to disabling. Medications remain the mainstay of treatment with varying levels of success.
After ruling out any kind of severe neurological issue (unlikely for most but important to consider for those with severe symptoms or for those who have experienced a sudden onset of symptoms), most experts agree that typical headache triggers include stress, muscle tension, or hormonal imbalances. Acupuncture has proven to be an effective treatment option for a number of people. It prompts the release of endorphins for pain relief, disrupts pain signaling in the brain to break the pain cycle loop, regulates the autonomic nervous system for relaxation & stress reduction, improves blood flow to relax tight muscles, and balances hormone levels to mitigate headaches that occur regularly for some women during their menstrual cycle.
For those who respond well to treatment, acupuncture can reduce the severity and/or frequency of headaches if not eliminate their occurrence altogether. If a patient is taking medication for their headaches, it’s important to wean off slowly to prevent rebound headaches. The development of rebound headaches (headaches that occur after the medication has worn off) keeps many sufferers reliant on continual use of their medication. Acupuncture can help patients dose down their medication so as to maintain effective control at a lower dose (meaning fewer side effects). In many cases it can be an effective means to help a patient get off of their medication completely and remain headache-free.