Headache is a common symptom that appears in a variety of different disease. Acupuncture treatment is most suited to those who suffer chronic headaches, and additionally are interested in reducing or eliminating reliance on pharmaceutical medications. A degree of caution must be taken when treating headaches as they can be a symptom of serious disease, which is why it is often best to have a check-up with a medical doctor first.
To give you, the reader, an understanding of how acupuncture can be utilised to treat chronic headaches I will firstly explain some of the causes of this complaint. In Traditional East Asian Medicine, headaches can be separated into those caused by an internal disease and those caused by an external disease. The internal area is where the internal organs and central nervous system are located. Types of headaches related to these areas are those associated with high blood pressure, migraine, tumours/ cancers, hormones and fevers. The external area relates to the flesh, muscles, bones and joints. Examples of headaches related to these areas are tension headaches, jaw pain, facial neuralgia, arthritis/ vertebral conditions of the neck, sinusitis and minor trauma to the head. This list is NOT comprehensive and it focuses on headaches of a chronic nature. Additionally, tumours/ cancers require treatment from an oncologist and may not be suitable for acupuncture. High blood pressure also requires monitoring and management from a GP.
Traditional East Asian Medicine commonly uses the meridian model to understand the pathology of a headache. As explained above, the body is conceptually separated into internal and external areas. A model of circulation, utilising the meridians, is used to understand how substances circulate, communicate and balance between the internal/ external and upper/ lower parts of the body. These substances, created from the workings of the internal organs are the mediums which nourish and function the entire body. If a disease causes the circulation to be disturbed a weakness or congestion of flow may affect the head area and cause pain.
Within our paradigm of thought treatment is aimed at balancing the circulation throughout the body (remember this is a concept within traditional medicine not a reality within the body), so there is neither a weakness or congestion of flow in the head area. In practice, this requires the use of acupuncture, and at times, herbal medicines to correct pathologies of the internal and external areas. Traditional East Asian Medicine has a variety of strategies for headaches with a unique point of difference from orthodox medical treatments.