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Head-banging: acupuncture for headache relief

Acupuncture for headache relief

Do you suffer from headaches? Or migraines? Today's blog post is going to look at acupuncture for headache relief.

It is going to examine

As always my messages are always open and please feel free to get in touch to see if acupuncture can be useful for your headache or migraines.

Love Andrea, aka The Channel Project

Hertfordshire acupuncturist

Acupuncture for headaches

When you come for an acupuncture treatment with me, I always take a full case history. Regardless of whether headaches or migraines are your main reason for visiting me you will be asked about any headaches you have.

  1. How long? How long have you been having headaches/migraines?

  2. What is the quality of the pain? A stabbing pain? Dull ache? Heaviness?

  3. What makes it better or worse? Lying down? Pressure?

  4. Where is the pain? Behind the eyes? Top of the head? On the temples?

  5. Is there a trigger for your headaches? Stress? Food? Tiredness? Menstruation?

Because if I know this information, my diagnosis will be accurate, and we can discuss ways in which you can help yourself outside of the treatment.

In case you don't already do this, I highly recommend creating a diary of your signs and symptoms together with what action was before the attack.


Common causes of headaches


Stress can be a contributing factor in headaches as when your muscles are tense and tight it can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain, headaches and body aches.

In my opinion, stress is one of the most dangerous causes of disease. If you would like to know more about stress and how acupuncture for stress, you can read my blog post here.

I also really recommend reading Gabor Mate, When the Body Says No.


This is a very common sign, seen in my acupuncture clinic. Headaches before, during or after menstruation can mean a variety of things in Chinese medicine. Keep reading to see what it means.


Foods such as chocolate, dairy, and missed meals may trigger headaches/migraines. In biomedicine the link as to why this happens is uncertain. However, in acupuncture, we understand why this can occur. For more information on this, see the next section.

Alcohol, coffee and dehydration can also be triggers for headaches.

Colds or flu

If you are a long-term follower you will know how much I urge you to wear a scarf. When an external pathogen, such as a cold or flu, enters the body it can create a stiff neck and then headaches.


There is a close relationship between sleep and headaches. Both an inadequate amount of sleep or an excess of sleep can be correlated to headaches.

Red flags

As a fully trained, regulated and insured acupuncturist, I am aware of red flags in disease. With headaches this can look like:

  • severe headache that develops over hours or days with fever, vomiting, neck stiffness and bruising and non-blanching rash (acute meningitis or encephalitis)

  • severe headache that comes out of the blue. may want to lie down, vomit, neck stiffness and dislike of bright lights (intracranial haemorrhage)

  • high blood pressure, worsening headaches, blurred vision, chest pain (malignant hypertension)

  • headache, abdominal pain, visual disturbance, nausea, vomiting and oedema in mid/late pregnancy (pre-eclampsia)

  • severe one-sided headache over the temple in an elderly person, or someone with polymyalgia rheumatica. Blurring or sight loss are very serious signs (possible temporal arteritis)

For more information on red flags, you can see my blog post here but if you think you have any of these signs and symptoms I urge you to speak to your GP as soon as possible.


Acupuncture for headaches

As always, with acupuncture, there is no one size fits all treatment for headaches. We recognise your pain or feeling is individual to you.

When we talk to you about your pain we are going to be asking:

  1. What is the quality of the pain? A stabbing pain? Dull ache?

  2. What makes it better or worse? Lying down? Pressure?

  3. Where is the pain? Behind the eyes? Top of the head?

  4. Is there a trigger for your headaches? Stress? Food? Tiredness?

Gathering this information allows your practitioner to provide a treatment that will be based on your individual headache.

So, what sort of headache do you think your experience is based on the slideshow below?

Mine are always behind my eyes, better for pressure, dull pain.

Where are your headaches?

  • Sides / temporal: Gall-Bladder channel most frequently due to Liver-Yang, Liver-fire or Liver-Wind rising. This headache is sharp and throbbing in character.

  • Vertex: Liver-Blood deficiency being unable to reach the area OR deficient Qi and Blood unable to reach the top and Heart-Blood deficiency.

  • Occiput: Chronic: Kidney deficiency on the Bladder channel. Acute: external Wind accompanied by stiffness of the back of the neck. Bladder pattern, such as Damp-Heat in the Bladder = pain will be sharp.

  • Whole head: Chronic: Kidney-Essence nourishes the brain & when it is deficient = dull headaches. Acute: are due to external Wind = severe and sharp.

  • Behind the eyes: Liver-Blood deficiency = dull pain. Liver-Yang rising = pain is sharp and severe.

  • Forehead: Stomach deficiency = dull pain. Stomach-Heat = sharp pain. Dampness / Phlegm (being retained in the head preventing clear Yang from ascending). Associated with a heavy/muzzy feeling of the head, and a lack of concentration. If Phlegm is causing the headache the person will also feel dizzy with blurred vision.

What is your pain like?

  • Tight: usually indicates liver qi stagnation, or where qi has become obstructed e.g. wind cold

  • Bursting: when the heat has occupied channels usually indicates liver fire, liver yang rising or fever

  • Sharp: chronic qi stagnation

  • Splitting: very intense and fixed in one place ~ indicates Blood stasis. It occurs only in chronic headaches

  • Dull: Caused by Qi, Blood or Jing deficiency

  • Heavy: Damp / Phlegm obstructs & prevents the clear Yang Qi from ascending & the turbid Yin Qi from descending. Typically feels heavy, muzzy & as if it were wrapped in a cloth. Could also find it difficult to concentrate & think, especially in the morning. Damp & Phlegm may cause the above sensations but Phlegm is more obstructive & it clouds the "orifices" & sense organs, causing dizziness & blurred vision.

What makes your headaches worse?

  • Menstruation: before or during is qi or blood stagnation. After could be deficiency; especially blood deficiency * however a couple of practitioners mentioned that blood deficiency will lead to stagnation and vice versa

  • Movement: deficiency of Qi or Blood

  • Tension: Qi stagnation

  • Food: spleen qi deficiency or heat can aggravate hot pathologies

  • Weather: cold conditions worsen in cold. Hot conditions worsen in heat. Damp conditions aggravated by damp

And because I have lots of acupuncturists who follow me, I am adding below the acupuncture patterns, treatment principles and points of headaches.


Can acupuncture help headaches?

A recent guideline change by the National Institution for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that current drugs for pain relief of chronic primary pain have little or no evidence that they work.

Their guidelines suggest that acupuncture should be advised for clients who have pain that has no underlying condition. Examples include chronic widespread pain and chronic musculoskeletal pain, as well as conditions such as chronic pelvic pain. Headaches and migraines also fall under this classification.

Indeed, the NHS already recommends acupuncture for the treatment of migraines.

In a 2016 Cochrane study (Cochrane is considered the gold standard of research) they found

The available results suggest that acupuncture is effective for treating frequent episodic or chronic tension‐type headaches, but further trials ‐ particularly comparing acupuncture with other treatment options ‐ are needed.

What can I do?

Acupuncture for headaches

If you decide that acupuncture might be something you would consider we will discuss all of the questions above, this will allow me to make my diagnosis and discuss my treatment plan with you.

One of the most frequent questions I get is "how many treatments will I need". Ultimately I do not know immediately. But there are some things which I do know:

  • I always ask for at least two treatments and then review. This doesn't mean it will be solved in two treatments, it means we evaluate (using MYMOP) the headache and pain.

  • The longer you have had your condition, the longer it may take to treat

  • How regularly and consistently you can have treatment

  • How you can help manage your headaches (the first step would be to start the log) between treatments - this will mean making changes that only you can control.

Because I like to give you tools to help yourself, here are some self-massage techniques you can do at home.

Acupressure for headaches

  • Between Yin Tang and DU24: with the pad of your thumb start wiping up from between your eyebrows to just into your hairline. Alternate each thumb pad about 12 times, to open the forehead. The area should start to feel warm.

  • Across the forehead: starting with both thumb pads at the middle of the eyebrows, simultaneously rub the thumbs from the middle of the forehead to the outside of the forehead. Repeat this action, moving up the forehead three times.

  • Pinch the eyebrows: starting at the middle of the eyebrow pinch across each of the eyebrows to the temple

  • Hold Bladder 2: at the end of the eyebrow, in the middle, there is a tender point. Hold this point and then start to knead it with your thumbs. It may feel very tender and you should knead 36 times.

  • Massage the temple: circle the temples in a deep backward motion, 36 times. warmth should arrive to the area

  • Acupressure on GB20 for headaches: at the base of the skill bring your thumbs in and press against the skull. find an achy space (the sensation can be a little unpleasant) and add circular kneading.

acupressure for headache relief


Ready to book acupuncture for headache relief?

If you would like to know more about if acupuncture can treat headaches then you can book a free 15 minute discovery call.

Or you may be convinced you want to try it. Book your initial consultation below.

Mobile acupuncture

Acupuncture at Cucumber Fields, Essendon (Thursday only)

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