Treating Headaches


I see a lot of people who suffer from headaches in my practice. I also see a lot of people who find great relief from their headaches with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Headaches are one of my favorite ailments to treat because it is very satisfying to witness someone’s headaches improve and even disappear completely during one appointment. Anyone who has ever suffered from migraines or any type of headache knows that your quality of life improves when your headaches go away.

In Western medicine, there are different categories of headaches, such as tension headaches, migraines, or cluster headaches.

In Chinese medicine, we pay attention to these diagnoses, but also have our own assessment of headaches based on where the energy is blocked, and to what severity. We look at which acupuncture channels are affected.

For example, headaches located in the:

  • temporal region, or side of the head, correspond to the Gallbladder or Triple Burner channel.
  • frontal area, or frontal sinus, corresponds to the Stomach or Large Intestine channel as this channel runs through that area.
  • occipital area or base of the skull and upper neck, correspond to the Urinary Bladder channel.

It is helpful to think about which organ systems or channels run through the areas where there is pain, as often this pain can be alleviated by unblocking stuck energy in these areas.

When treating headaches, I listen to my patients’ experience to get a sense of what triggers their headaches. Some triggers include menstruation, or other hormonal fluctuations, and factors related to the weather. For some patients, headaches started with a concussion years prior or some other sort of trauma or blockage. For headaches triggered by stress, there are many ways acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help to decrease stress and assist the body’s natural ability to rest and repair itself.

I am interested in the full spectrum of care from treating the headache itself to getting to the root of what is causing those headaches and then working on a plan to help prevent them from recurring in the future. Different treatments work for different people. Sometimes I’ll insert acupuncture needles at the location of the headache itself and at other times at points far from that area. I enjoy the detective work involved with being an acupuncturist.

If you or someone you know suffers from headaches, consider trying acupuncture to alleviate pain and more deeply understand your headache triggers.

Author: Samara White, LAc, EAMP, LMP