Treating Headache with Acupuncture

Unique Treatment Methods for Headaches
 – by Ken Smith, L.Ac.

While studying in China in 1997 I was able study from a number of teachers who each had their own particular styles of treatment.  One in particular, Dr. Gao, is known for his unique methods of treatment.

Revered by his colleagues, 72 year old Dr. Gao is a fifth generation TCM doctor and instructor at the Zhejiang TCM College in Hangzhou who sometimes uses points and techniques earlier generations of his family used, which were then passed down to him.   For example, he has a powder (the ingredients he does not share with anyone) that he applies to the skin and then tapes over it for low back pain and a multitude of other conditions.  Days later a blister would appear, exactly identical to a moxa blister.

I will share several techniques that he uses for headaches (acute headaches in particular).  The first involves needling LI-4 (hegu) and taiyang bilaterally.  With those four points in, he then needles various other ashi gallbladder (or other ashi points in the scalp) until there is a qi sensation, and then withdraws the needles and moves onto the remaining ashi points on the scalp.

Another method he uses is to needle GB-8 (shuaigu) and SJ-5 (waiguan) for a few minutes on the left or right side only, then withdraw the needles and needle the same points on the opposite side.

The third method that Dr. Gao uses for extremely painful, acute headaches involves rotating two points (such as GB-8, shuaigu and SJ-5, waiguan ) evenly  at the same time on one side, and then repeating this method on the other side.     It is important when utilizing this method to needle with the same speed (one to two rotations per second) and direction.  Should the headache be due to a deficiency, the practitioner can slowly rotate the needles to tonify.    I sometimes saw Dr. Gao employ this method of rotating two needles at the same time for various other conditions, such as treating gallbladder stones with a hua to jiaji point next to UB-19,  dan shu and GB-34 yang ling guan.   He mentioned that this type of needling  is quite effective in treating ‘severe or acute pain.’          

All three methods are applicable for any patient who has a severe headache at the time of treatment.  Once the pain has subsided other points can then be needled to treat the underlying condition according to the diagnosis.

Dr. Gao mentioned that within 3 to 5 minutes acute headache pain should subside by applying one of the aforementioned techniques.   These time proven methods of treating headaches by Dr. Gao are sure to be a valuable addition to any clinical practice.

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