Acupuncture for Headache & Migraine Pain

At the Marino Clinic, one common ailment we treat is headaches! The pain that headache and migraine sufferers endure can impact every aspect of their lives. Headaches (headache disorders) rank among the top nervous system conditions.

Classifications of Headache

Headaches are nauseating pains in the head which can range from slight to severe aching and can happen at either side of the head. Headaches usually occur at specific points such as the back of the head, temples as well as at the forehead. Headaches can persist from as little as half an hour to as much as an entire week.

  1. Tension headaches are the most prevalent and can be prompted by various issues including anxiety, stress and muscle strain.

  2. Cluster headaches are another type of headache that comes in clusters and lead to severe pain at one side of the head. Clusters cause a sufferer to experience durations of headache attacks that are followed by instances that are headache-free.

  3. Sinus headaches accompany other symptoms of sinus infections, for example stuffy nose, coughing and fever.

Migraines can be described as intense headaches that go along with other symptoms apart from head pain. These symptoms include:

  • Vomiting

  • Temporary loss of vision

  • Nausea

  • Aching at the rear of one eye / ear

  • Aching at the temples

  • High sensitivity to light / sound

  • Seeing spots / flashing lights

While pain from migraines can be moderate, some people experience pain so severe that they seek emergency care. In addition, while migraines usually attack one side of the head, it is not uncommon for people to have migraine headaches at both sides of the head. People with other kinds of headaches such as clusters and tension headaches may carry on with their day to day activities. However, migraine sufferers usually experience throbbing pain that makes it nearly impossible for them to perform daily chores.

Common causes of Headache & Migraine

The majority of headaches are not caused by serious ailments. However, some may occur due to life-threatening illnesses that require emergency care. Primary headaches usually result from overuse or issues to do with the head’s pain receptive structures. Primary headache doesn’t symptomize an underlying condition. Some people’s primary headaches can be genetic or can result from the brain’s chemical activities. Common primary headaches include migraines, cluster headaches and tension-type headaches. Primary headaches may be elicited by lifestyle factors such as:

  • Poor posture

  • Stresses

  • Skipping meals

  • Change in sleep patterns

  • Particular foods like processed meat which contain nitrates

  • Alcohol

Secondary headaches symptomize an underlying health condition and can be caused by a wide range of conditions that vary significantly in severity. These causes comprise of acute sinusitis, blood clot in the brain, brain tumor, dehydration, concussion, glaucoma, hangovers, meningitis, stroke, toxoplasmosis, panic disorders and more. Some kinds of secondary headaches are sinus headaches, spinal headaches and rebound headaches.

Headache Treatment

Traditional Medical Treatment

Headaches are usually treated with over the counter medications like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.

For migraine headaches, patient must rest in a dark and quiet room and place a cool towel or cloth on their head.


Research has consistently shown that acupuncture is a remarkably effective treatment modality for headaches and has been used to provide relief since the beginning of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture needles stimulate nerves to release hormones, such as endorphins, that trigger a response from your body. This immune and circulation system stimulation is how acupuncture relieves migraines and headaches. Acupuncture is unique in that unlike Western treatments, it has no side effects and its healing effects are long lasting. A 1984 study established that acupuncture eased chronic shoulder and neck pain as well as related headaches, with symptoms not recurring for months.