Headaches suck. Plain and simple. They are not fun, can ruin your day, and affect your work and home life. Acupuncture can be a great way to treat acute and chronic headaches, but how does an acupuncturist choose which points to use when treating headaches. Well, some of the points are on the face, head or neck, and it makes sense that points in these locations would help with a headache. Others are in the hands or feet which does not make as much sense until you realize that the meridians that the points are on, start or end in the face. Still others will treat an energetic organ system that might be imbalanced causing the headache. There are five, heavy hitters that are used to treat many kinds of headaches. You can even treat your own headache by using acupressure or massaging these points (or better yet, get your husband/wife boyfriend/girlfriend to do it!)
Large Intestine Four (LI4)
Named He Gu or Junction Valley, this is a widely used point to treat headaches. The point is located on the back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger (if you fan your hand out and then move your thumb alongside the rest of your hand, a kind of bulge comes up, the point is at the top of the bulge). Why on earth would a point on your hand treat a headache. Well the Large Intestine meridian starts on your forefinger but goes up the arm, over the shoulder, up the neck and ends just to the side of your nose. This demonstrates that a point on one part of a meridian can affect another area of the body. LI4 is said to be a command point for the face and is antispasmodic. The point is often tender when you massage it and this point alone can quickly relieve a headache.
Liver 3 (LV3)
Named Tai Chong or Supreme Surge, this point is often used in conjunction with LI4 to treat headaches. The four points together (two on each side) are commonly referred to as the “Four Gates”. In Chinese medicine, when gates are closed that should be open, pain or other disharmonies are common. By “opening” the four gates, we allow the proper flow of energy and the headache dissipates. The point is located between the bones of the big and second toe on the top of the foot. Here again, we have a point that is about as far away from the head that you can get that treats headaches. This point is great for treating stress as the Liver in Chinese medicine is the organ that is most susceptible to the effects of stress and when the Liver becomes burdened, the energy of the body gets “clogged” up or stuck often times creating pain. When you view the point from this perspective, it makes sense that these four points can be a powerful combination when treating a headache.
Gallbladder 20 (GB20)
Named Feng Chi or Wind Pool, the point is located at the back of the neck. If you locate the base of your skull in the middle of the back of your neck and run your finger over the muscles immediately to the sides of the spine, your fingers will drop in to a depression and the point is located there. This point is said to relax, clear and open, freeing up circulation, which is the cause of the headache. It is easy to see that the immune response and increased circulation can benefit someone suffering from a tension headache caused by a stiff neck.
Urinary Bladder 10 (UB10)
Named Tian Zhu or Celestial Pillar, the point is located right next to GB20. If you move back in from the depression where GB 20 is located, you will find a slight depression on the muscle you felt when you moved out from the middle. This point is said to soothe, clear and open and is known to relieve pain. Again, the location of this point is great for those with a tension headache.
Urinary Bladder 2 (UB2)
Massaging these points when you get a headache or even periodically during the day if you get frequent headaches, can help relieve and even prevent headaches.
I often relate to my patients how acupuncture works with an example using headaches. I can have six different people walk in to my office with six different types of headaches. I can treat them all differently and effectively whereas if I used the same “headache” points on all of them, some might feel better but not all would. This is because we are all different with different factors that contribute to headaches: stress, muscle tension, diet, environment etc. etc. So, by treating everyone as an individual, we get much better results. If you deal with chronic headaches, the points I listed above might give you some relief, but the headache is a signal from your body that something is wrong. At Princeton Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, we can get to the root of your problem and tailor a treatment plan that will meet your individual needs so that you can get lasting relief.
Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!