Headaches may have similar symptoms, but different causes. Sinus headaches, for example, are characterized by a feeling of facial pressure and result from inflammation and swelling in the membranes that line the sinus cavities. Tension headaches usually cause pain in the back of the head or over the top of the head and result from tense muscles in the neck and skull. Headache can also be a symptom of something else, such as the headaches that occur after a head injury.
Migraines do cause headaches, but they are actually a complex neurological condition. In addition to pain, often on one side of the head or behind one eye, they can result in nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise. They may be preceded by an “aura” of flashing lights and can also produce neurological symptoms like visual changes, slurred speech, and numbness and/or weakness of the face or extremities. Severe migraines can last for days and be extremely debilitating.
Acupuncture has been proven to help reduce the duration, frequency and intensity of migraines in many patients. The effects can last for several months. There is also evidence to support the use of acupuncture in chronic tension headaches. Research on the use of acupuncture in sinus headaches is more limited, but there is some evidence that it can help relieve sinusitis, which may be a contributing factor.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), treatment involves both the root (cause) of the headache and the branch, or pain, of the headache. By treating the cause instead of just the symptom, relief usually lasts longer, and is more effective. Treatment varies according to the problem; a pressure point between the thumb and forefinger can resolve tension headaches, but if the root cause is a spinal alignment problem, treatment must be directed there as well. Herbs might be used for prevention, as feverfew is for migraines, or to improve overall health and energy.
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