Dr. Brian Healy, AP,DOM,LMT
Billions of people have successfully used acupuncture to treat a whole range of maladies from back pain to infertility. In the US, leading edge medical institutions like the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, the Moffit Cancer Center, and the Mayo Clinic are now successfully offering acupuncture as adjunctive therapy in conjunction with their conventional Western medical treatments. It has been proven that acupuncture is effective in relieving many painful conditions, including headaches and migraines.
Dr. Brian Healy, owner of Fort Myers Acupuncture and Massage, is an Acupuncture Physician, Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Medical Massage Therapist who has been practicing holistic medicine since 1994. Over the last two decades he has developed a multi-faceted program for treating headaches and migraines that includes acupuncture, therapeutic massage, dietary therapy, herbal and homeopathic medicines and mind-body exercises such as yoga and meditation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Headaches
In Chinese Medicine, headache is considered a ‘disease’ with many different potential causes. During the process of diagnosis, a variety of influential factors are considered to determine if the condition is related to something coming from within the body or outside of the body. When do the headaches occur? Are they worse with weather changes? Are they worse with stress or when experiencing other emotions?
Are they related to your diet or sleeping habits?
Some of the other symptoms that help to determine the underlying cause of a headache or migraine is the location and the quality of the pain and when it occurs. Is it behind the eyes? The top of the head? The back of the head? The temples? Is the pain dull or sharp? Throbbing or more of an ache? Do you become light sensitive? Is it worse in the morning or at the end of the day? Do they occur at a particular time of the month? The answers to these questions help the acupuncture physician to determine the right course of treatment for the individual based on his own constitution and the imbalances presenting in his body. Two patients with similar symptoms might end up getting very different treatments. Dr. Healy states ” By crafting a highly individualized treatment plan we greatly increase our success rate in treating our migraine and headache patients. We treat the whole person, not just their symptoms or their diagnosis.”
Sometimes headaches and migraines can occur from an excess condition like too much heat in the body, exposure to wind or dampness, or a stagnation of blood. Likewise they can also be caused by a deficient condition like dehydration, blood deficiency or qi deficiency. Qi is considered the energy of the body’s innate, intelligent system of promoting health, healing and vitality and it flows through the acupuncture channels and points to nourish the various organs and tissues of the body. Where there is a lack of qi, disharmony may become pain, disease and dysfunction.
Depending on which syndrome is at the root of the headache the acupuncture points will vary. Very often we will select points at or near the area of pain (local points) but we will also use points far away from the head (distal points) on the hands and feet. Often these points actually have a more powerful effect that those on the head itself. In the case of migraine we very commonly use points in the lower body to help draw qi downwards away from the head.
“I used to suffer from migraines,” Dr. Healy shares. “Once I eliminated the food triggers from my diet (artificial colors, sweeteners and MSG) and began addressing the issues in the muscles of my neck, my migraines virtually disappeared. I still occasionally get a visual migraine where my vision becomes impaired with flashing lightning bolts in one eye. Luckily acupuncture clears it up in a matter of minutes. There’s a group of points that I commonly use when this happens and when I needle one of those points (it varies which one) my vision begins to improve almost immediately. Within twenty minutes, it’s like it never happened.”
By restoring balance in the circulation of qi and blood, we allow the body to come back into a state of equilibrium and good health.
Acupuncture for Migraine Prevention
When acupuncture needles are inserted into the acupuncture points, the body responds by releasing endorphins and other neurotransmitters that activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest branch of our autonomic nervous system) which relaxes muscles, smooths blood flow and accelerates healing. Simultaneously, the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is deactivated. This greatly eases the muscular tension and stagnation of blood that may be contributing to the occurrence of migraines.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Yes, acupuncture is perfectly safe when performed by licensed acupuncturists. It is relatively painless and without the sometimes dangerous side effects that pharmaceutical pain medications can cause.
Is Acupuncture Effective?
Acupuncture is very effective for neurological disorders, such as headache pain. Studies conducted with functional MRIs that allowed real-time observation of brain activity during acupuncture showed activation or depression of the limbic system, which alters our perception of pain.
Dr. Healy’s associate Dr. Lia Andrews states “Acupuncture is very effective to treat migraine headaches, particularly when performed just when a headache starts coming on. Migraines are most often the result of a liver organ system imbalance in the body which can be caused by hormonal imbalance, dietary issues, and stress.” Dr. Andrews is also an Acupuncture Physician at Doctor of Oriental Medicine at Fort Myers Acupuncture & Massage.
What makes acupuncture a unique anti-pain approach is that its effects may be long-lasting. In one recent study, acupuncture treatment reduced chronic pain in the neck and shoulder areas and associated headache, with the effects lasting for months.
If you are currently experiencing chronic headaches, receiving a treatment from a qualified acupuncture physician can help. Keep in mind that a course of treatments may be required to fully resolve the condition. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Dr. Healy at (239) 437-9355 or visit FortMyersAcupunctureMassage.com.
Fort Myers Acupuncture & Massage