Headaches

Use your hands to relieve tension headaches naturally

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(NaturalNews) Sooner or later, we all get headaches. Usually, we tend to shut down the pain by taking an over-the-counter drug. Drugs are usually pretty good at removing pain, but they do not address the root cause of the problem and often cause unwanted side effects. Pain is actually very important because it is one way our body communicates a problem with us. By taking a drug to remove the pain, we only dull our senses. However, if we take the time to learn the language of our bodies, we can understand what the causes of our headaches are and address them directly. This is by far the healthiest course of action.

In the case of tension headaches, the culprit is usually tension in the upper back, shoulder and neck muscles. Here are six simple steps that will reduce or remove the pain associated with tension headaches:

1) To start, take yourself away from the computer screen, get comfortable and close your eyes gently. Take a deep breath and let out a long and relaxing sigh as you drop and relax your shoulders. Repeat this 3-4 times or as many times as you like.

2) Use your focus to release the tension in your upper body. Start with your face – take a few seconds to release all muscular tension and completely relax. Then move in a general backwards direction, continuing at the top of your head and then moving to the back of your head. Follow with your neck and finally your shoulders and upper back. Allow a few moments to completely relax each area.

3) Locate acupuncture point GB-20 on either side of the spine on the back of your neck just under the edge of your skull. Press firmly and deeply with your thumbs for about 1 or 2 minutes while keeping your breath gentle, deep and relaxed.

4) Put your hand on the back of your neck. Use four fingers on one side and the heel of your palm on the other side to grasp your neck. Start at the top of your neck and work your way down. Use firm pressure to grasp and then release the muscles a few times before moving down about a finger width and repeating. Massage all the way to the base of your neck about 5-10 times or until your hand gets tired, then switch hands and repeat.

5) Locate Acupuncture point GB-21 on the top of your shoulders half way from your spine to the outer edge of your shoulder. With the same “grasping” technique as #2, massage the muscle at GB-21 with the opposite hand for about 30 seconds to one minute. It will feel quite tender and sore since the muscles may be very tense. During the massage stay relaxed with soft and deep breathing. Switch sides and repeat.

6) Roll your shoulders in large slow circles to stretch and relax any tension that may be left in your shoulders and upper back. Roll them 5 -10 times in each direction while you keep your breathing even and relaxed. To finish, roll your head very gently around in a circle 5-10 times and then switch directions.

At this point, your tension headache should be either reduced or gone. If it is not, wait a few minutes and try again. However, this time do each step for twice as long and make sure to breathe in a deep but relaxed manner. Put an effort into becoming aware of any tension that you may be unknowingly holding in your body and let it go.

GB-20 and GB-21

Deadman, Peter (1998) A Manual of Acupuncture. England, Journal of Chinese Medicine.
Xiangcai, Xu (2002) Chinese Tui Na Massage. Boston, YMAA Publication.
Yang, Jwing-Ming (1989) The Root of Chinese Qigong. Boston, YMAA Publication.

About the author

Dave Gabriele, D.Ac, BA, is a registered acupuncturist, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and a health researcher helping people in and around the Greater Toronto Area. He is the founder of Life Balance Family Health Care (www.balanceyourlife.ca), an organization committed to providing people with the information and guidance they need to make positive lifestyle changes. Dave has been a teacher of Chinese martial arts since 1997, including the arts of Taiji and Qigong.

Acupuncture More Effective than Medication for Headache Relief

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By: Duke Medicine News and Communications Acupuncture is more effective than medication in reducing the severity and frequency of chronic headaches, according to a new analysis conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers.

The National Institutes of Health recommended acupuncture as a viable treatment for chronic headaches a decade ago and, while research in this field has increased, there have been conflicting reports about its efficacy.

“We combed through the literature and conducted the most comprehensive review of available data done to date using only the most rigorously-executed trials,” says Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, MD, a Duke anesthesiologist who lead the analysis.

Researchers analyzed data from only randomized controlled trials evaluating acupuncture for adults with chronic headaches and were conducted for more than four weeks.

“Acupuncture is becoming a favorable option for a variety of purposes ranging from enhancing fertility to decreasing post-operative pain because people experience significantly fewer side effects and it can be less expensive than other options,” Gan says. “This analysis reinforces that acupuncture also is a successful source of relief from chronic headaches.”

While everyone experiences an occasional headache, more than 45 million Americans (one in six) suffer from chronic headaches, 20 million of whom are women. Medication remains the mainstay of treatment with varying levels of success.

The Duke team looked at studies that compared traditional acupuncture to either medication or a control group who received sham acupuncture. Similar to traditional acupuncture, the sham therapy entails inserting needles into the skin but the acupuncturist avoids meridians or areas of the body that Chinese medicine teaches contains vital energy associated with achieving balance needed for good health.

Researchers analyzed more than 30 studies to arrive at the findings published in the December issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia. The studies included nearly 4,000 patients who reported migraines (17 studies), tension headaches (10 studies) and other forms of chronic headaches with multiple symptoms (four studies).

In 17 studies comparing acupuncture to medication, the researchers found that 62 percent of the acupuncture patients reported headache relief compared to only 45 percent of people taking medication. These acupuncture patients also reported better physical well-being compared to the medication group. In 14 studies that compared real acupuncture to sham therapy, 53 percent of acupuncture patients responded to treatment compared to 45 percent receiving sham therapy.

“Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years but only recently has started to become more accepted as an alternative or supplement to conventional therapies,” Gan explains.

“One of the barriers to treatment with acupuncture is getting people to understand that while needles are used it is not a painful experience,” Gan says. “It is a method for releasing your body’s own natural painkillers.”

Acupuncture therapy is becoming widely available nationwide and a typical course of treatment for chronic headaches requires 30-minute sessions. Many people begin experiencing relief following five to six visits.

Gan also has conducted research to determine the effect of acupuncture on post-operative pain, nausea and vomiting. His research has found that acupuncture can significantly reduce pain and the need for pain medications following surgery. He also found that acupuncture can be as effective as medication in reducing post-operative nausea and vomiting.

The research was conducted in collaboration with Yanxia Sun, MD. The meta-analysis was supported by Duke’s Department of Anesthesiology.

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