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Prevent and Treat Chronic Headaches

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Recent studies show that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can reduce the symptoms and frequency of chronic tension headaches. That’s good news for those who stay home from work or social activities or suffer through days of low productivity while dealing with a bad headache.  

Tension headaches are described as dull pain, tightness or pressure around the forehead or the back of the head and neck. Stress, muscle tension, hunger and fatigue are common triggers. According to the Natural Headache Foundation., roughly 80 percent of us have experienced a tension headache; however, a smaller number have what are considered to be chronic headaches (more than 15 days in a month).

One study published in the Journal of Acupuncture Meridian Studies shows that people treated with acupuncture in addition to standard medical treatment had a 54 percent reduction in pain scores and an 84 percent reduction in headache frequency, compared to 25 percent and 38 percent respectively for those who received standard care alone. 

A review of two other studies shows that 45 to 48 percent of participants who received only acupuncture had more than 50 percent reduction in headache frequency, compared to four to 19 percent in the control groups who received standard medical treatment.

Although these studies involved only needle insertion, acupuncture treatment can also include other Chinese medical modalities that can potentially improve outcomes. Most acupuncturists employ cupping, stretches, qigong, tai chi, herbal medicine and moxibustion techniques as adjuncts to therapy, which can help to relax muscles, reduce stress reactions and improve circulation.

Neurologists at an outpatient center in Changchun, China, found that study participants who were administered an oral herbal decoction (tea) for 10 days had a decrease in number of headache days and use of medication compared to pre-study data.

As we become more aware of the dangers and drawbacks of using pain medication, it makes sense to find and verify other means to help manage our pain, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

Beverly Fornoff is a licensed acupuncturist and certified herbalist at Lancaster Acupuncture, LLC, 600F Eden Rd., in Lancaster. For more information, call 717-381-7334 or visit

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