headaches & migraines

Chinese medicine & acupuncture effective, safe treatments for headaches & migraines, studies show

Do you or someone you love suffer from chronic headaches? Well, western medicine is finally discovering what Chinese medicine has known for years – that acupuncture is an extremely effective and safe treatment for headaches. It is, in fact, both the safest and most effective treatment available. (Thanks to Mell Hopper Koppelman for pointing this out, and for providing the links to the supporting studies. Here’a link to her post about this – https://www.abetterwaytohealth.com/neurologists-discover-acupuncture-for-headaches-in-2022/).

Here’s a recent article from Scitechdaily.com – https://scitechdaily.com/doctors-discover-that-acupuncture-can-significantly-reduce-chronic-headaches/. It’s interesting to note that they present it as as something that doctors have just discovered. Not only is this accepted fact to any Chinese medicine practitioner, it is also a subject that has been extensively researched and found to be true.

My own clinical experience with both headaches and migraines certainly backs this up – Chinese medicine is extremely effective at treating both. It often succeeds after western medical interventions have been unsuccessful.

Anyways. The study published in the American Academy of Neurology concludes that 68% of patients receiving true acupuncture had a reduction in the number of monthly headache days by 68% compared to 50% who received sham acupuncture (which also points out to the robustness of ANY acupuncture – while 68% is a drastic reduction, 50% fewer headaches is also a significant finding).

However, this effectiveness versus headaches has been “discovered” before – in 2016, a Cochrane meta analaysis (a study of studies) which included 12 studies and over 2000 patients, found that the available evidence “suggests that a course of acupuncture of at least 6 treatment sessions can be a valuable treatment option for chronic tension type headaches”. The difference is drastic; 50 % of patients who had acupuncture with painkillers had their headache frequency drop by at least half, compared to only 17% who only took painkillers.

Here’s the link – https://www.cochrane.org/CD007587/SYMPT_acupuncture-tension-type-headache

There is also yet another, more recent, meta analysis of 8 studies that found that acupuncture reduced tension headaches and frequency and severity and that the effects were maintained months after treatment ended and that the treatment is exceptionally safe. This is a huge finding – there are no other treatments for this type of headache that I know of that provides relief after treatment has finished, and with such a great safety profile.

(https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2020/4262910/

All of these results certainly reflect my clinical experience. I’ve treated headaches and migraines for a long time, sometimes with acupuncture, sometimes just herbs and sometimes using both. The trick, as always is proper pattern differentiation according to Chinese medicine, as from the Chinese perspective, there can be many factors that contribute to head pain. It can be from weak blood (anemia is part of this clinical picture), inadequate circulation (for example if there’s been physical trauma), high blood pressure (too much energy rising in the body) or too much dampness, which is the Chinese term for when the body isn’t adequately getting rid of toxins and metabolites. Headaches can also be from infections (called wind invasion in Chinese medicine, ie a pathogen has entered from the outside).

I often combine these therapies with simple dietary changes; headaches and migraines often respond very well to eliminating foods that are causing inflammation. As always, the most frequent culprits are gluten, dairy and sugar, though there is a long list of other foods that can also cause problems.

My clinical experience is that many, many people are suffering from symptoms, which can range from relatively minor to severe, that are often very amenable to treatment – as long as they know that safe and effective treatment are out there. This includes migraine and headache sufferers.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either ask any questions you have or to book an assessment at my Collingwood, Meaford or Toronto clinics. I’m very happy to answer any questions you have and to see if Chinese medicine can help you live a healthier and pain-free life.

For more information about my services and the Chinese medicine approach to treating pain generally, please look here.

Chris Savidge, R.Ac, R.TCMP

Chris Savidge, R.Ac, R.TCMP

Chris is a Chinese medical herbalist & acupuncturist who's passionate about helping people overcome health challenges.