In Over Your Head | What You Need To Know About Headaches & Migraine

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And How To Get Relief With Acupuncture

Having regular headaches or chronic migraine is a serious issue that affects various aspects of everyday life. Besides the serious impact on your social life and work, there will always be that dreading fear of getting another episode. Especially during defining moments like family weekends, your best friend’s wedding, an important meeting or simply on the one relaxed evening you kept free to charge yourself.

I’d like to provide you with insights and useful information on different types of headaches and hope to clarify the kind you might be suffering from.

I would also like to share what acupuncture could do for your chronic migraines and headaches and hope to help you relieve your pain. It can get better!
 

KNOW YOUR HEADACHE: THE DIFFERENT TYPES

There are different types of headaches. Finding out which one applies to you is a great starting point for healing.

The Tension Headache

This headache occurs occasionally and is the most common type of headache. Tension headache can be recurrent and may last from a few hours up to days. This type of headache feels like a dull pressure, mild or moderate in severity.

The Severe Headache and Migraines

These headaches are usually one-sided, throbbing or pulsating, and are severe or moderate in intensity. They can become worse if you engage in an activity and may be linked with nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to noise or light.

Some people with migraines experience auras, a neurological condition that gradually develops between 5 and 20 minutes. Vision can become blurry. Other features are imbalance, vertigo, numbness and confusion.

The Chronic Headache

If you experience headaches on a daily basis, you are suffering from chronic or rebound headache. Sometimes a chronic headache resembles tension headache or migraines. The overuse of pain medication can actually aggravate headache patterns.

The Dangerous Headache

At times, headaches are a reflection of a serious medical condition. These may include headaches following a trauma, headache due to old age or headaches involving the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe dizziness
  • Hypertension
  • Extreme neck pain
  • Sudden onset
  • Fever

 

UNDERSTANDING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM & HEADACHE

Understanding the underlying mechanisms gives you a grip on what you are dealing with. Most functions of your internal organs are controlled by an involuntary nervous system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). ANS is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system activates the “fight or flight” response, particularly in stressful situations. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts this response by activating the restful state and relaxation response.

Extended periods of stress can cause a chronic state of hyper-sympathetic activity or suppressed parasympathetic response. This causes your body to shift gradually to an increased sympathetic response. This can cause neck or upper back stiffness, tension headaches, irritability, anxiety or digestive problems like bloating or constipation. Headache pain occurs due to constriction of vessels supplying blood to your brain.
 

WHY ACUPUNCTURE MIGHT BE THE ANSWER

Acupuncture is a process that involves insertion of fine needles into specific areas of the body, coupled with a gentle manual or electrical stimulation of the needles.

It’s now evident that acupuncture can help reduce migraines with effects lasting for a long duration, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In reference to the study in this publication, lasting effects were only seen in patients who underwent traditional acupuncture. After three months, the participants who received traditional Chinese acupuncture reported fewer cases of neck pain and headache.
 

Acupuncture for Headaches

Reduction in migraines was observed in duration, frequency and intensity. According to Claudia Witt, MD, of the University Medical Center Charity in Berlin: “[R]esearch showed the marginal benefit of real acupuncture over sham acupuncture. It is noted that the patients who benefited from acupuncture treatments were the only ones who didn’t get relief from migraine pain by any other treatment.”
 

Acupuncture for Neck Pain Treatment

In reference to Dominik Irnich, MD, an author of an extensive study on acupuncture, it is a widespread treatment approach for many chronic conditions like chronic neck pain and headache, applicable where Western medicine fails.

Irnich is an anesthesiologist specialist of pain therapy at the University of Munich and German Medical Acupuncture Association. From his study involving 177 people with chronic neck pain, Irnich and his colleagues found that patients who were treated with acupuncture had greater improvements in motions related neck pain in comparison with those who underwent massage and laser therapy. These findings were published in the British Medical Journal.
 

Acupuncture for Migraine Relief

Acupuncture in general causes an increase in blood flow to the areas of insertion in order to help relief pain.

But pay attention using acupuncture for migraines! As acupuncture increases the flow of blood, it could potentially worsen the migraine symptoms.

The best acupuncture approach in relieving migraine should actually avoid points in the neck, head or upper body, and instead the focus on the lower body to prevent dilating blood vessels of the head. Using thís approach, pain caused by migraine cán be improved.

Acupuncture for Migraine & Headache Prevention

As we discussed before, different types of headaches can also be triggered by (emotional) stress that causes imbalances in the parasympathetic and sympathetic states. Acupuncture can help prevent various types of headaches by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore decrease muscles tension in the neck and upper body.

Acupuncture treatments for migraine prevention are usually performed on the forearms and lower legs. Since most people with migraines experience increased muscle tension in the neck and upper back, reducing this tension can help alleviate headaches. Acupuncture triggers an increase of blood flow to tense and sore muscles.
 

QUICK FACTS

  • You can get relief from chronic migraine pain through acupuncture
  • Studies have shown the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating various types of chronic pain, including neck pain and frequent headaches.
  • There have been campaigns trying to urge health insurance companies to cover and expand acupuncture services in treating chronic headaches and migraines.
  • If you decide to try acupuncture yourself make sure you get your services from reputable professionals with experience.
  • It’s also important to reduce your stress and make lifestyle changes to decrease the incidence of headache, including sleeping adequately, avoiding mental or physical fatigue, minimizing alcohol use and avoiding any other triggers.

 
If you have been having them yourself or know anyone who suffers from recurring headaches or migraines, I hope to have given you some new insights and information on how to deal with them. Try to find out what works best for you and don’t wait too long to consult a professional or try a ‘new’ approach like acupuncture. You deserve a happy, pain-free day, every day!
 
 

References:
1. https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/health-news/frequent-headaches-have-direct-link-to-high-stress-level.html
2. https://www.glozine.com/lifestyle/health
3. https://www.jointhealthmagazine.com/

 

Photo Credit © Lechon Kirb via Unsplash

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