Acupuncture for Migraines & Headaches

Acupuncture for Migraines & Headaches
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Acupuncture for Migraines and headaches

Migraines and headaches are some of the most prevalent complaints in clinics. Almost everyone has headaches from time to time and ten percent of North Americans suffer from chronic migraines and headaches. Conventional medicinal treatment for migraines and headaches are typically different pharmaceutical drugs. These often alleviate the symptoms but usually do not result in a full healing.  Approximately 100,000 Americans die each year from prescription drugs and many more suffer from side effects. People are looking  natural treatment such as Acupuncture for migraines and headaches. Alternative medicinal treatments aim to address the root cause of an illness and not just the symptoms. Treatment is always tailored for the patient after a thorough diagnosis.

In this article we will review the different natural methods to treat migraines and headaches and provide some case studies. If you suffer from migraines or headaches, this article is aimed at helping you find the right, natural treatment,

What is Migraine?

There are a number of different headache types with migraines typically causing the most disturbance. The origin of the name migraine comes from ancient Greek word “Hemicrania” meaning ‘half a head’. A migraine is characterized by a single-side headache, usually throbbing hard. The typically worsen with any type of mental or physical effort or strain. It can last between a few hours to a couple of days. Migraines usually start with pain above the eye, which slowly intensifies and develops into an unbearable headache. Some people experience symptoms that precede the onset of a migraine such as sensitivity to light, vision disturbances, dizziness and nausea.

What are Headaches?

There are several types of headache diagnosis. Among the most common is the tension headache, migraine and the cluster headache.Acupuncture for headache  Headaches may appear in various places in the head, with different sensations like a stabbing feeling, pressure, throbbing etc.
If the headache appears once every few weeks and disappears after a few hours, there is no need to be too worried. Even if you use a pain killer to alleviate it. When headaches develop frequently and last for a long time that they start to impact the quality of life. This is when you must look for an adequate treatment.

Headaches can be linked to a range of factors including emotional stress, poor nutrition/hydration, restlessness and tension in the shoulder or neck muscles. Hormonal changes like menstruation and menopause as well as allergies can also cause headaches. They can also be treated with drugs, but until we treat the cause of the headaches, they will keep reoccurring.
When should we be concerned about headaches? When the headache does not get better for a period longer than a few days, we must go to a doctor. This is to eliminate the possibility of a more complex illness.

Alternative Medicine Methods for Migraines and Headaches

Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

         Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines 

Using Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches can be very effective. The results are often immediate in relieving pain and sensitivity. With Balance Method Acupuncture, in most cases the pain is alleviated during the acupuncture session. Patients who suffer from migraines or headaches can come for treatment even in the midst of the headache to alleviate pain and reduce the need for drug consumption.

Acupuncture for headaches is usually done in points on the hand or foot. In the first session we go through a diagnosis to check the causes of the migraine. Apart from alleviating the pain, the acupuncture treats the internal root cause that creates the migraine. Diagnosis with Chinese medicine helps to check if there is anything that can be changed with regard to lifestyle. Factors may include drinking more water, nutritional changes, more rest or other lifestyle changes.

Muscular Tension

In many cases patients report that the headaches stem from the neck, or are affected by muscular tension. Sometimes it will be connected to poor posture or straining movements, and in many cases, muscular tension is connected to mental tension or problems in the neck vertebrae. Headaches that have to do with mental stress will appear in times of greater stress or sometimes in times of stress relief. Many people will experience headaches in a weekend that is connected to decreasing the mental stress; the reason for this is explained further in the article.
For women who suffer from headaches connected to menstruation, PMS or  menopause; Acupuncture will treat this through hormonal balancing.

Case study of Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Elad Shalev acupuncture diagnosis and treatment
Elad Shalev acupuncture diagnosis and treatment

Twenty-eight-year-old Helen came to the clinic having suffered from migraines for a few years. “I don’t know what to do anymore” she says. Once a week she is completely disabled. She has tried different medicines that used to help her in the past and now are no longer effective in treating the pain. In addition, all of her medical tests that she’s had done are normal. Helen has a slim physique, a somewhat pale face and works in a high stress work ten hours a day. After work, to release some tension, she often goes out and smokes and drinks alcohol. Her diet is made up of inconsistent meals and includes salads, white bread, cheese coffee and chocolate.

TCM Diagnosis

Chinese medicine diagnosis was made after checking the pulse and tongue: Helen has a liver blood deficiency that causes a rise of Yang (heat) to the head. Blood deficiency is a common phenomenon among women as a result of blood loss during the monthly menstruation. The will to maintain a slim body can also often result in poor diet patterns which damage blood production in the body.The liver, which is greatly affected by emotions like stress and anger, creates heat. If there is insufficient blood which has the role of cooling down the heat; then the heat that rises upward in a strong motion creates the migraine.

The migraine treatment identified for this case is a series of Balance Method Acupuncture for migraines and headaches, a diet plan for migraine, and a combination of Tui na for the neck and shoulders. The Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches treatment that was given to Helen included acupuncture points that soothe the liver and reinforce the blood. Following this, a Tui na therapy to release neck and shoulder muscles. In addition, medicinal herbs for migraines that were tailored for her diagnosis.

Helen started eating regular meals; more cooked food with elements that reinforce the blood such as orange vegetables, meat, eggs and dried fruits. She agreed to cut down on coffee and drink only one cup a day, and to reduce chocolate consumption. Helen was asked to come for two sessions in the first two weeks and then once a week. In the first week she already experienced headache relief. After a series of ten treatments Helen was already down to one migraine a month and it was far less acute. Today, Helen hardly suffers from headaches at all and she comes once a month for maintenance treatment of migraine acupuncture.

Tui na and Shiatsu for headaches

Combined with acupuncture, it is possible to use other supporting methods of Chinese medicine to treat migraines and headaches. Tui na, Shiatsu or massage to treat migraine can be very effective, especially for headaches and migraines linked to tension in the neck muscles, shoulders, face and skull. Generally speaking, these treatments are also a relaxing, pleasant therapy that adds to prevention. The disadvantage of touch techniques for migraines is that during the headache it is difficult to touch the sensitive areas and sometimes touching sensitive points might cause further disturbance to the individual. So, it is recommended to go to a therapist who knows when and how to do those massages or treatments.

Chinese Medicinal Herbs

In Chinese medicine, medicinal herbs are an important part of the treatment. Medicinal herbs for migraine and headaches can be given after diagnosis. The medicinal herbs predominantly treat the root factor that created the problem and not just the headache itself. So individuals would receive different kinds of medicinal plants suited for him or her. Together with the medicinal herbs, sometimes it is important to make a nutritional change to reduce migraines and headaches.

Recall Healing for migraines and headaches

Almost everyone understands that tension and stress might cause headaches and migraines. In general, we understand that stress is unhealthy. The Recall Healing method knows how to explain to us why we are stressed, and why this stress causes migraines or headaches rather than other illnesses. Ninety five percent of our brain is subconscious. We are not aware of why we think certain thoughts, why we have certain emotions or even why we make certain choices in our lives. We think that we decide, but in fact it is our subconscious that decides.

Healing the emotional reasons of migraines

According to Recall Healing, a disease is not a mistake but rather a biological solution of the brain to an inner conflict that we were not able to resolve ourselves. The body is trying to help us solve it. Headaches and migraines have to do with our intellectual ability, leadership, connection to a father figure, and our ability to find rational solutions to problems.

Recall Healing therapy is done through conversation after completing a detailed questionnaire. The questionnaire helps to gather information about the individual and the context around their illness or ailment. This includes their childhood and events that happened around conception, their mother’s pregnancy and their birth. It also include their family tree and significant events in the individual’s life. These are all factors which formulate an individual’s subconscious. Usually the number of sessions is relatively low, and the process is most suited to people who want to get to the root of the problem. This helps to heal the emotional source of the headache in a direct, holistic and deep manner.

Subsconscious conflict

Relaxation for headaches

Recall Healing is not “automatic.” It is necessary to find the specific conflict in the person’s life which may be connected to different factors as mentioned above.
It is not enough just to tell a person what the subconscious conflict is that’s associated with a headache, in order to stop them suffering from headaches. One must find the emotional connection unique to that person, and bring their awareness there. This can mean bringing awareness to a specific area in their subconscious which is in conflict. In seeing what the conflict or subconscious belief is, releases them from holding onto the emotional energy. In most cases that will contribute to a faster recovery, both physically and emotionally.

Case study of addressing migraines using Recall Healing

Jenny came to the clinic with a complaint about suffering from migraines every weekend and during menstruation. “I work hard all week, and when I finally rest in the weekend the headaches start.” Jenny works as a programmer in a computer company. Since she was young she has excelled with working with computers. After completing her MA degree, she was hired to do a prestigious, well-paid job. Although she works in a competitive and high-pressure environment, she enjoys the work and gets a lot of satisfaction from it. Jenny can’t understand why most of her migraines appear on weekends when she is at home relaxing with her partner.

The questionnaire that Jenny filled out revealed that her mother was an intelligent woman. But her mother had most unwillingly had to give up her university studies and career in order to take care of her children and be a mother. Jenny carried inside of her, from a very young age, her mother’s conflict. This was: the need to prove herself as an intelligent, successful woman and not being able to.

Recall Healing Approach

According to Recall Healing, diseases can often appear when the stress on the body or brain is over and the body enters a repair phase. When Jenny is under pressure at work and stressed over her intellectual abilities, because of the subconscious conflict she carries, her body sends more blood than usual to her brain causing a dilation of the blood vessels. This is the brain and body’s way of dealing with the inner, unresolved  conflict. When Jenny feels good at home, the body uses the time to repair itself. The blood vessels return to their natural state; the vascular system in the head heals and the headache forms.

For migraines connected to menstruation, in Recall Healing, the conflict usually associated with “this is my intellectual value as a woman.” After one Recall Healing session, Jenny understood this subconscious conflict was connected both to her mother and to her stress at work. With just the process of bringing awareness to the conflict, the pain was gone during the following weekends.

Jenny had a total of three Recall Healing sessions and a few more acupuncture treatments, to release the neck and shoulder muscles and to balance the hormonal system. Today, Jenny seldom gets headaches and when they do start to form, she links the headache to what she knows of her life context and this eases the tension.

Naturopathy and nutrition for Migraines and Headaches

Naturopathy and nutrition as migraine therapy are very important. In many cases, many patients say that changes in their diet greatly affects the intensity and frequency of migraines. Combine with the nutrition the Naturopath Doctor can prescribe vitamins and supplement to treat the migraines and headaches. It is advisable to combine nutrition therapy for migraines in such cases, or as a single treatment or in combination with Acupuncture and Recall Healing.

Chiropractic treatment for Migraines and Headaches

Chiropractic therapy can greatly help migraines and headaches. Much of the tension that accumulates in the neck vertebrae can be released by chiropractic manipulation on the neck which benefits migraines and headaches. In chiropractic therapy, the therapy itself might worsen the pain during the first few sessions and it is recommended to combine the therapy with local massage or acupuncture before or after the chiropractic therapy for migraines.

Migraines and Headaches syndromes according to Chinese Medicine

According to Chinese medicine, to better treat migraines and headaches, a diagnosis must be performed. The diagnosis is done by pulse, tongue diagnosis and assessing other signs. To understand how complex this kind of diagnosis can be, detailed here are the main causes of migraines and headaches according to Chinese medicine.

Yang rising

This is one of the most common causes of migraines. Yang is Chinese terminology and is one half of the yin-yang symbol, representing fire, heat and movement. Our body experiencing a yang energy increase or overload can be analogized to an old-fashioned kettle that whistles when there is a high steam pressure in the kettle. The increase of Yang is the steam that rises up in the kettle. Overheating the steam rises upwards (rising Yang) and up to a certain point when there is a lot of heat and pressure, the kettle starts whistling. This is the migraine when the yang is in overload.

Yin deficiency

The other part of the Yin-Yang symbol in Chinese medicine is Yin, representing water and a calming, cooling energy. Yin deficiency is a common condition among women in menopause. According to our kettle analogy, yin is the water in the kettle. When heat is created in the body, because of the low amount of water in the body (Yin energy) the kettle will boil rapidly, creating a headache. This is an aggravation of the Yang rising condition. Yin deficiency associated with migraine is mostly experienced in the liver and kidneys.


Blood deficiency

Blood is a form of Yin in the body that helps cooling and anchoring the yang energy in the body. This is a condition that precedes Yin deficiency, more commonly experienced among young women. This is often because of the blood loss associated with menstruation and also due to poor diet. This condition is less acute than Yin deficiency, According to our analogy, therapeutically it is easier to “fill the water in the kettle (build blood)” than Yin deficiency. Yin deficiency is more complex due to the time it takes to build yin energy in the body. Blood deficiency related to headaches is most commonly connected to blood deficiency in the liver.

Blocking phlegm

Phlegm is created in the body by indigestion of foods and exposure to damp conditions. In the analogy we are using, the phlegm can be imagined as dirt that blocks all the openings in the kettle and then there is more pressure inside. This is a condition that describes phlegm headache, for example, like sinusitis where there is pressure in the headache.

Liver Qi stagnation

This is a common condition of tension headaches and has to do a stagnation of Qi Energy (life force energy) in the Liver. This is typically connected to the holding on and suppression of emotions as well as poor diet. In such conditions we will see a great deal of muscular tension in the neck and shoulders.

Liver heat

This is a more acute condition of stagnation of the liver Qi. Here we will see in many cases, red face and eyes, high blood pressure and the symptoms will be more acute.

The Connection between Nutrition and Migraines

Migraine patients know that certain foods might cause a migraine attack. Generally, we do not recommend fatty or fried foods including melted cheese, spicy food, red meat, alcohol, bananas, chocolate and candy in general. It is recommended as part of the migraine treatment to look for naturopathic therapy, even for one session in order to adjust to the right nutrition to treat the migraine. In principle it is always recommended to drink a little bit more water than we are used to.

Connection between Migraine and Stress

Stress is indeed a significant factor in creating headaches and migraine. It creates stagnation of the Qi (the life force energy) and tension of the neck and shoulder muscles. When the energy does not flow well it heats up and rises upwards to the head. To prevent stress it is advisable to do stress-relieving activities such as exercise, meditation, Reiki, Qigong, yoga, etc. Of course, it is also important to decrease the stress factors in the lifestyle. For someone who really wants to treat the cause that create stress it is recommended to go through a number of Recall Healing sessions. This is to bring more awareness to the influence of the subconscious in our lives.

Medical Treatment for Migraine

Pills for headaches or acupuncture?

Drugs can help, if we are looking at headaches occurring at a low frequency and lasting for a short duration of time. However, in the long run, drugs can be life-threatening. From the data of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 780,000 people die each year in the US as a result of medical negligence, out of which 100,000 are because of prescription drugs. Even if it does not kill us, the damage that drugs cause in the long run will diminish our health and quality of life.

When should we seek medical treatment for migraine?

In principle, for every new problem that appears it is advisable to always see a doctor for diagnosis. If headaches are raising suspicions of tumor and pains cannot be alleviated or are centered in one place, it is best to get it checked out by a doctor to rule out the possibility of a tumor. Although the chances that a headache is connected to a tumor are small, it is worthwhile to mention it in this article. Even if you go to alternative therapy for severe headaches or head pain, you should go to a family doctor as well. If the doctor finds it necessary, he or she would refer you for more tests. It is important for us to learn to combine modern medicine and alternative medicine.


It is important to note that alternative medicinal treatment for migraine is to treat the root cause that created the migraine. The approach is not just to alleviate the pain or about “pain relief.” The idea is to find the imbalance in the body and treat that. When applying such a method, often conditions that seemingly have nothing to do with the migraine itself are healed. These include tensions, menstruation pain, sleep disorders, fatigue, menopause phenomena, skin ailments and more.
People who suffer from migraines for a long time before coming for a treatment often say – why didn’t we do this before?! There is hope and treatment is worthwhile. The longer the condition prevails the more it remains in the body. So, better sooner than later and later than never!

We hope that we have succeeded in helping you to be more informed about Acupuncture for migraines and headaches as well as other natural treatment options. We wish you the best of health.

The Rebalance Acupuncture Edmonton Clinic offers Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches as well as Recall Healing.

Have Questions?

After reading this information, you may have some personal questions for Elad Shalev. Your questions will be addressed during the first consultation, otherwise you can email the clinic or fill out the free online questionnaire.
You will receive a personal answer from Elad Shalev as soon as possible.

Preliminary Questionnaire

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About the Author

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev, R. Ac, Registered acupuncturist in Alberta, is the founder of ReBalance. The name ReBalance comes from a combination of Recall Healing and Balance Method Acupuncture.

After practicing and teaching different types of alternative medicine over the last 20 years, Elad Shalev came to focus his work on the most effective methods from his experience. His search after healing methods that provide fast results in curing the symptoms while healing the root cause of the disease, led him to Balance method Acupuncture and Recall Healing.

The Rebalance acupuncture clinic is located in Edmonton, Canada.

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev

Elad Shalev, R. Ac, Registered acupuncturist in Alberta, is the founder of ReBalance. The name ReBalance comes from a combination of Recall Healing and Balance Method Acupuncture.

After practicing and teaching different types of alternative medicine over the last 20 years, Elad Shalev came to focus his work on the most effective methods from his experience. His search after healing methods that provide fast results in curing the symptoms while healing the root cause of the disease, led him to Balance method Acupuncture and Recall Healing.

The Rebalance acupuncture clinic is located in Edmonton, Canada.

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