Like you, millions of other Americans, 45 million to be specific, suffer from chronic headaches. Perhaps you reach for ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or some other pain reliever when the pain strikes. Such medications are often quite effective for relieving headaches that occur periodically. However, if you take them too frequently, they can cause side effects that include stomach, kidney, or liver damage. What can you do if you experience headaches several times per week? Try acupuncture.
Scientific research affirms the efficacy of acupuncture for treating chronic headaches. Researchers used randomized trials to compare true acupuncture with sham acupuncture, with controls and with other interventions. Patients were observed for at least eight weeks after treatment. Researchers concluded that, for patients who had frequent tension headaches, acupuncture can be a useful treatment.
So, how do you find an acupuncturist who can provide you with effective treatment? Generally, it is most helpful to ask people you know and trust for names of practitioners. Over the last 20 years, western physicians and lay people have become certified in acupuncture, but this does not mean that they can provide you with relief. Furthermore, just as western physicians differ when it comes to treatment recommendations, acupuncturists will also differ in terms of treatment methods. Some practitioners will use needles, while others may use moxa, an herb that is burned on the acupuncture site (don’t worry, this won’t hurt).
Because acupuncturists view the body holistically, treatment of your headaches may result in mitigation of other ailments stemming from the same source. To determine the source, an acupuncturist will look at your tongue and your demeanor then take your twelve pulses, which are located on each wrist. In addition, the practitioner will ask about sleep and toilet habits. Based on all of this information, he or she will decide on the cause of your headaches and will insert the needles accordingly. Finally, the acupuncturist may provide you with herb pills to swallow daily between appointments to bolster the treatment.
Many insurance programs cover acupuncture, so it may be worth your while to try this treatment.
[Photo Credit: psyberartist on Flickr]