Acupuncture for Headaches

Most people have experienced headaches at one time or another, although occasionally I meet the patient who, upon routine questioning, says, “I have never had a headache in my life”. According to Harvard Medical School’s ‘Everyday Health: Understanding Headaches’ website, headaches can result when sensory nerves in the head are activated as local muscles, blood vessels and nerves temporarily stop functioning correctly (1). This is not in contrast to the way we think of headaches when we consider their causes and the solutions that acupuncture holds for stopping or curing them. From an East Asian medical perspective, headaches (along with dizziness, high blood pressure, and certain other health conditions, by the way) can occur when there is too much ki (energy) in the head and thus an imbalance in ki circulation in the rest of the body, where the ki can be put to productive use. Thus, one of the first goals in the treatment of headaches using acupuncture is to determine where the ki is overly concentrated and use the methods of acupuncture and moxibustion to redistribute it.  Certainly though, there are times when it is in order to seek the care of a qualified physician as the first course of action when experiencing certain symptoms, namely:

▪ a sudden, severe headache with or without neck stiffness

▪ a persistent headache in someone who was headache-free

▪ a headache with eye or ear pain

▪ a headache with fever

▪ a headache following a blow to the head

▪ a headache that interferes with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

▪ a persistent headache in a child, especially if occurring at night or upon waking in the morning

▪ confusion or loss of consciousness (2).

Additionally, Ikeda Masakazu sensei suggests seeking Western care if the entire head hurts, if it is the first time the person has ever had a headache with a severe quality, if there is vomiting with the headache, or for intractable headaches for which pain relievers offer no help whatsoever (3).  He finds acupuncture extremely useful for the type of headaches that occur at the temples and for the type of headaches that happen a couple of times per month; particularly those that occur in relation to the menstrual cycle in women of childbearing age (4).  Headaches can be treated effectively using acupuncture, both to stop a headache from coming on to full-fledged degree and also to help prevent future headaches by influencing the free flow of ki. For patients who come into the office with an existing headache, it is important to judge the value of the treatment by asking one simple question – “Is the pain gone, or at least substantially decreased, by the end of the session?” For me as a practitioner, the patient’s headache pain should be gone. I want to make sure that each patient who comes in with a headache leaves without one.

(1-2). “Everyday Health:  Understanding Headaches.”

(3-4). Ikeda, Masakazu. ‘Acupuncture for Acute Conditions’. Lecture. Carrot Tower. Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan. July 6, 2008.

Kerri Winston, Ph.D., L.Ac., has a strong record of successfully treating headaches many other issues using acupuncture. If you would like to make an appointment with her or speak with her specifically about your case, please call Acupuncture Works at 404-949-0550 or write her at

Kerri Winston, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in Atlanta, Georgia's Buckhead area. If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture can help you or your loved ones, please call 404-949-0550 or send email to