How Acupuncture helps Headaches and Migraines - Upper East Side, NYC
Updated: Apr 16
Acupuncture can help tremendously with headaches and migraines, but to best treat these conditions, we need to understand what is causing the headaches in the first place. There are numerous factors that contribute to both headaches and migraines. As an acupuncturist on the Upper East Side, I have seen these conditions resolve with acupuncture. In my experience, stress is one of the biggest factors contributing to both headache and migraines, but there can be other factors as well: improper sleep, dehydration, old injuries resulting in pain of the neck and back, menstrual cycle, allergies etc.
As always, the first step in treating any conditions with acupuncture is knowing where the headaches occur. Each circulatory system known as a channel pass through different regions of the head. The urinary bladder system passes through the front, top, enters into the brains, then exits along the back of the head. Often times we treat this system for headaches occurring in the posterior aspect of the head and or neck. The gallbladder system passes along the sides of the head and temple regions. The liver system passes along the forehead and the top of the head. Each of these systems may be treated separately or combined depending on how the patients signs and symptoms present.
Often times stress headaches are related with the liver and gallbladder channels. As mentioned, the pain in these cases are located in the forehead, temple, and top of the head. The liver system is also related with the eyes. In these cases, the patient may see an aura prior to the onset of headache or migraine. Most of the time these patients are stressed out and may experience irritability or anger. The liver in Chinese medicine is responsible for opening the channels, which enables the channel system to circulate freely. When the liver channel is impaired because of stress, the channels will stagnate and over time can lead to feelings of heat particularly in the face. When this occurs, herbal strategies that clear and descend heat may be needed in addition. I often recommend 1-2 glasses of celery juice in these cases. In general those with the liver and gallbladder headaches need to move more to help their circulatory systems.
When people have headaches as a result of the urinary bladder channel, pain will most often be in the back of the head, but because the channel passes through the forehead and enters into the brain, we may see pain in these areas as well. Sometimes the patient cannot describe where the headache is, they say, "it feels deep like it's in my brain." This is a huge indicator that the urinary bladder channel is involved. Patients may also experience pain behind the eyes because the channel begins at the inner corner of the eyes and is related with the optic nerve. Patients with this headache often feel they have a 24/7 headache that is present at all times of the day, but gets worse under certain conditions such as stress or lack of sleep. In contrast with the liver and gallbladder systems where the headaches are more episodic. Patients with urinary bladder type of headaches, often work too much and deplete their resources. Because the urinary bladder and kidney systems form a yin yang anatomical relationship, the kidney system becomes depleted when a patient overworks. These patients are benefitted by resting and reducing their work load.
In many cases, patients with both types of headaches have difficulty sleeping, so we would need to optimize sleep and other patterns of behavior if they are to get the best results. In addition to celery juice for the liver and gallbladder type, I recommend magnesium 600 mg, and omega 3 fish oils 2000-3000 mg daily. Herbal therapy must be selected based on the patients signs and symptoms. At our Upper East Side acupuncture clinic, we may recommend herbal formulas in conjunction with acupuncture to give you the best treatment possible.