When it comes to headaches, people usually tend to use the medicine to get rid off the pain, mainly because of the fast achieved effect. Migraines, for example, are the type of headaches which are chronic and which could be predicted for their auras. Therefore, the use of medicine could be quite functional, but also other non-medicine methods could be quite useful too. Traditional Chinese medicine is becoming more and more present lately, from the use of traditional herbal remedies to acupuncture practice. Probably the most effective practice of traditional Chinese medicine is acupuncture.
It is no wonder that more and more people tend to visit the acupuncturist’s office with the problems related to the chronic headaches. Sometimes, chronic headaches may represent a warning sign of a serious medical condition, but in most cases, headaches are harmless. Most types of the headaches seen by an acupuncturist practitioner are either migraine, tension headaches, or even a combination of both headache types.
The acupuncture treatment for the migraine is different, depending on whether an individual comes to the acupuncturist to seek the help for the acute pain or a prevention. The long-term goal is surely prevention, so each situation has a different approach to the problem.
Types of Headaches
When it comes to headaches, there are several significant types but also 150 diagnostic categories which have been established in the medicine world. The most common types of headaches are tension headaches, migraines, mixed headache syndrome and cluster headaches.
Tension headaches are daily, chronic headaches which are the most common among adults. The contractions of muscles can lead to moderate pain and last for a prolonged time period. Migraines, on the other hand, haven’t go the exact cause. Popular theory talks about certain trigger which causes abnormal activity and changes in the brain blood vessels. Moderate to severe pain is described as throbbing, pounding displeasure.
Transformed migraines, or mixed headaches syndrome, combines tension headaches and migraines. It is common in both adults and children. Cluster headaches are the least common but the most severe. The pain is quite intense and it may be described as the piercing or burning quality which is constant or throbbing.
The Autonomic Nervous System and Headaches
Migraines can be understood as the chronic episodes of autonomic nervous system dysfunction. Actually, migraines represent episodic syndrome which consists of various clinical features that result from the dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system part, called sympathetic system. The individuals who suffer from the migraines, have a reduction in their sympathetic function during the periods without the headaches, unlike those who don’t suffer from migraines.
Such system dysfunction of sympathetic nervous system is also a main feature of some rare neurological disorders, such as multiple system atrophy and pure autonomic failure. Actually, there are no current reports present in medical literature which compare the function of sympathetic nervous system in individuals who suffer from migraines, multiple system atrophy and pure autonomic failure.
Nevertheless, the dysfunction of sympathetic nervous system leads to the migraine state and therefore chronic and characteristic pain. Therefore, the main goal is to act against the dysfunction and use the methods which will make the function of the autonomic nervous system better.
Acupuncture for Migraine Relief
Several studies do suggest that acupuncture may be quite beneficial for the migraine prevention, but the use of acupuncture for migraine relief still needs further studies. In the practice of most acupuncturists, it has been found that acupuncture can be quite helpful for the management of acute pain related to mild or moderate migraine attacks.
Usual acupuncture session includes the insertion of the special needles into various acupuncture points present on the body and then follow by the gentle needle manipulation. Such technique promotes blood flow, which is called “axon reflex”, and dilates small blood vessels present around the area of a needle. The removal of stagnation is a term which refers to the increase in circulation where the blood flow is generally poor. It is usually a good response for the most chronic conditions, including migraine prevention.
During the acute attack, the blood vessels dilate in the head which causes massive pains, so this technique is not desirable and can be quite contradictory, leading to the symptoms worsening. Therefore, it is important to minimize the blood vessels activity in the neck and head, during the acute migraine attack. This is done by limiting points of acupuncture selected to those on legs and arms. To avoid the worsening of the attack, the dilatation of neck and head areas is avoided and rarely stimulated. The sitting position is desired, rather than lying position. In the siting position, the blood vessels are under much greater control, which minimizes the chance of the undesired dilation.
Acupuncture for Migraine Prevention
Emotional stress can be quite a trigger for migraines in some people, so it is highly recommended to treat the emotional stress in the best possible way. The researchers in Japan have found out that people who life the fast-paced lives often have an imbalance in their autonomic nervous system. Specifically, this problem is related to the inhibition of parasympathetic nervous system, which is active during the relaxation, as well as to sympathetic nervous system, which has the leading role in our response in stressful situations. Such imbalance is usually associated with various health conditions, such as insomnia, heart disease, premenstrual syndrome and high blood pressure.
The harmonization of autonomic nervous system usually requires the use of specific acupuncture techniques. Such technique, most frequently used by the acupuncturists is called SES. The SES technique includes the insertion of acupuncture needles in the shallow layers of skin, just to the dermis part. Manual needle stimulation is then performed, while the patient exhales in the previously suggested sitting position. The technique was studied originally by the professor Kazushi Nishijo, who had found these positive effects on the autonomic nervous system. It is suggested that this technique activates the parasympathetic system and decreases the muscle tension. The usual positions for the technique practice are lower legs and forearms.