Headaches and migraines are one of the most commonly seen health issues in our clinic. They can be severely disabling with many people having to take time of work, take medications or even having to rest in a dark room until it passes. Most people are not aware that a lot can be done to ease the symptoms with acupuncture and herbal supplements. There are also a number of self help strategies that work well. In this blog we will go through some of the best natural remedies for headaches and migraines.
What are some common types of headaches?
- Tension Headache is a very common type of headache. It feels like an ache or pressure in the head mainly at the temples or the back of the head/neck. It is believed these headaches may be caused by contraction of the neck and scalp muscles, possibly as a reaction to stress or a posture problem.
- Migraine Headaches are a more severe type of headache. They typically last from 4 hours to 3 days and consist of a throbbing pain (usually on one side of the head) that worsens with activity. Some people experience nausea and vomiting and a sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are sometimes associated with auras, warning symptoms that occur before the migraine starts. These warning symptoms can be visual (like flashing lights) or changes in smell or perception.
- Sinus Headaches are caused by inflamed or blocked sinuses. Common causes of inflammation are allergies, infections or colds. They usually present as pain in the face or forehead that is worse when bending over and a runny or stuffy nose.
- Rebound Headaches is what we are seeing more and more of in clinical practice. Ironically they are caused by the overuse of pain medications, over-the-counter as we as prescription drugs. One theory is that as the level of medication reduces in the blood stream, the headaches return as a symptom of withdrawal. Using pain relievers for headaches occasionally can be very helpful, but if you use them more than a couple of days a week they can cause rebound headaches.
Who gets headaches?
Headaches are extremely common. Nearly everyone has an occasional headache. Tension headaches are the most common and it is estimated that 80-90% of the population suffers from them at some time in their lives. Around 15% of the population experiences migraine headaches, roughly 3x more woman than men. Migraines can start in childhood but the most commonly affected age group is people between 35-45 years of age.
How does Chinese medicine view headaches?
Chinese medicine has its own framework for approaching all the different types of headaches. For each sufferer we get to a specific, individual diagnosis. We will find out by questioning and examining the pulse and the tongue why it is that headaches are present and what the underlying cause is of the problem. With this information Chinese medicine aims to then not only relieve the pain but also deal with the root of the problem. Most commonly acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are used to accomplish this. People vary in their response, some respond better to acupuncture, others better to herbs. The greatest advantage of these methods is that they have virtually no side-effects and do not cause rebound headaches like painkillers can.
What is the current research status on acupuncture and headaches?
In 2017 the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) funded The Acupuncture Evidence Project*: a comparative literature review of the effectiveness of acupuncture in 122 common conditions. Acupuncture for headaches and migraines was assessed as having a ‘consistent statistically significant positive effect’. Headaches and migraines were listed as conditions with strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture. *McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised edition). © Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd, 2017.
What is involved in an acupuncture session?
Every session starts with discussing your current symptoms and overall health. To get further information we will then feel your pulse and have a look at your tongue. We decide on the points that we will be using that session and insert fine needles into those points. The needles will stay in place for 20-30 minutes during which you can rest and relax. After the needles have been removed you can get up again and continue your day. We assess if there is a need for Chinese herbal supplements to complement the acupuncture.
What can I expect after my acupuncture session?
Most people rest deeply whilst having acupuncture and feel very relaxed after the session. There is nothing in particular that you need to do or not do afterwards, just do what feels good to you. In the days after the treatment you will start to notice the positive effects the session has on your health and wellbeing. The effects are accumulative, that means that after more sessions the effects tend to last longer. We will discuss during your first session what is to be expected in your particular case and how many sessions will be needed.
Can I claim my acupuncture session on insurance?
Most Private Health Funds cover acupuncture however it is important to check your level of cover with your health fund prior to your treatment. At Natural Solutions we do have HICAPS facilities so if you’re covered you will only have to pay the gap.
What is the easiest way to book my acupuncture session?
Click here to make an online booking l. Alternatively you can call 0414 067 874 or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What else can I do to relieve my headaches naturally?
- Take a magnesium supplement. People who suffer from headaches often have low levels of magnesium. According to several studies magnesium may reduce the frequency of headaches in people with low levels.
- Use essential oils. Peppermint oil increases the skin blood flow and soothes muscle contractions. It can reduce headache sensitivity. Research has shown that lavender oil is a safe and effective treatment of headaches. You can place a few drops of these oils into your hands and inhale, or rub them onto your forehead and neck. If this is too strong you can dilute them by mixing the essential oils with some coconut oil.
- Stay hydrated! Dehydration is the key to a lot of headaches and most of us simply aren’t taking in enough water. On top of that coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol can dehydrate us even more and leave us with a killer headache. So if you feel that headache coming on, consider your water intake and drink up!
- Stretching and moving can be particularly helpful if you are experiencing tension headaches. Staying in one position for an extended period of time, like sitting at your desk or computer, can lead to an increase of muscle tension and create headache symptoms. An easy way to avoid this is to take a break each hour and stretch to move your head and neck around. Doing yoga is also a great way to stretch and relieve built up tension.
- See a physiotherapist. Very often people with headaches also experience neck problems. Acupuncture can certainly help this but if there is a structural problem some manual treatment might be what you need. Physiotherapy care can improve the mobility of the neck, improve posture and therefore reduce headache. We love to refer to Rouse Hill Physio, they are experts at treating headaches and by far the best in the Sydney.