Headaches are one of the most commonly encountered complaints that I encounter within clinic. Types of headaches include pain from tight shoulders & neck, migraines (can be hormonally-related), tension, one-sided, behind the eyes, acute vs. chronic, sharp stabbing pain vs. dull ache, pre-menstrual, headaches due to neurosis, hypertension or traumatic injury … you name it! Taking painkillers are great at suppressing the pain but it does not inhibit the pain from returning. Also, depending on the painkiller will depend on its effect on your liver and digestive system. Acupuncture helps address the root of the problem so as to decrease the re-occurrences of these headaches.
In Chinese Medicine, there are 4 basic areas where headaches can occur. This is not to say that headaches cannot occur in other areas. If you find that you experience a specific type of headache location, you can apply pressure to acupuncture points (called acupressure) to help temporarily alleviate the pain. Should you have a more complicated case, I would suggest a personal Acupuncture consultation rather than applying acupressure points.
Below are some basic points for application: (pain or discomfort should not occur, be mindful to the amount of pressure you are applying)
1. Frontal Headache
This includes the forehead, sinuses and supraorbital ridge (above the eyeball). According to Chinese Medicine theory, this region of the head belongs to the Yangming channel (Large Intestine and Stomach).
Located on the forehead directly above the pupil, this point is just above the midpoint of the eyebrow.
Apply firm deep strokes of pressure in a downward direction for approximately 1 minute.
This point is located at the corner of the forehead where the hairlines meet at the “L”.
Similar to GB-14, apply firm deep strokes of pressure towards the back of the head for approximately 1 minute.
This point is located at the medial end of the eyebrow (at the nose bridge).
You can use your index finger to massage this point by simply applying pressure for 10-20 seconds per side. This point should feel very tender once you are on the correct spot.
This point lies in the infra-orbital foramen, below the eyeball.
Gently massage the area for 30-60 seconds avoiding the eyeball.
This point helps open up your sinuses so that you can breathe better.
This point is located at the centre of the eyebrow.
Stimulate this point in a pumping manner (press-release-press-release) for approximately 1 minute.
This point helps alleviate the tension that can build up from blocked sinuses.
This important point is a command point for the face and mouth meaning that it is great for any pain in the head, such as frontal headaches, neck pain, sore eyes, toothache, nasal obstruction, sore throat, plugged ears.
This point is located on the dorsum of the hand in between the 1st & 2nd metacarpal bones, at the midpoint of the 2nd metacarpal bone. Massage the point gently & perpendicularly with the thumb of the opposite hand for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute.
This point is located between the second and third toes just above the web of the toes.
To stimulate, you can pinch the skin between the second and third toes or in a pumping manner (press-release-press-release) for approximately 1 minute.
Homing Medicines for frontal headaches:
- Chinese herbs Bai Zhi (angelica root) and Ge Gen (kudzu root) are excellent supplements to take for Yangming headaches, especially due to common colds and stuffy sinuses.
2. Temporal Headaches
These types of headaches occur over the sides of the head (aka your temples) including the ears also known as the parietal region. According to Acupuncture theory, this area correlates to the Gallbladder or Shao Yang meridian. Another common symptom of a temporal headache is a feeling of heaviness of the head or as if the head is tightly bound. Some of my patients describe temporal headaches as a “tension” headache, pressure in the head, or one-sided pain.
This point is an extra point meaning that it does not lie on any one meridian. It is located one fingerbreadth behind the midpoint between the end of the eyebrow and the outer canthus of the eye. You can easily feel this point as it lies in the tender depression of the temples.
Massage this point entails simply pressing on it for approximately 10-20 seconds, or gently kneading with your index finger in a small circular manner.
Located in the depression at the lateral end of the eyebrow.
Pressing on this point for 10-20 seconds or firmly stroke along the supra-orbital ridge towards Taiyang will help relieve tension in this spot.
There are 18 points belonging to the Gallbladder meridian lining the parietal region of the head (see diagram). By palpating this region, you can get a sense of what points are sensitive. These sensitive points likely lie over an active acupoint.
Using 2 fingers together will increase the surface area used in applying acupressure to these gallbladder points. Gentle kneading in this region will help relax these muscles.
Homing Medicines for temporal headaches:
- Chinese herbs indicated for Shao Yang headaches are Chai Hu (bupleurum) and Chuan Xiong (Szechuan lovage root).
- If your headache lies closer the sides of the head (not temples) region, Gao Ben (ligusticum root aka Chinese lovage root) works best.
3. Occipital Headaches
The most common type of headaches that I see clinically is occipital headaches. These consist of pain in the back of the head extending down the back of the neck and shoulders. In Chinese Medicine, this area of the head belongs to the Taiyang meridian (Bladder). Most people feel tension, stiffness or tightness. Upon observation, you can see the shoulders elevated, as if touching the ears. Most times one shoulder is more elevated than the other, especially if you use your dominant hand mostly or carry a bag / purse over the same shoulder. Occipital headaches can also be due to how one holds their stress, which typically is in the neck and shoulders. Additionally, flus can cause achy and sore head, neck and shoulders.
Below the occiput (bone at the back of the head), this point is located in the depression between the upper portion of the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles.
Stimulate this point in a pumping (press-release-press-release) manner for about 1 minute.
Located on the lateral aspect of the trapezius muscle (closer to the trapezius muscle and slightly further down from GB-20) level with the posterior hairline. You should feel a depression around this area.
Stimulate same as GB-20.
This point is contraindicated during pregnancy!
Located at the highest point of the shoulder (at the crest of the trapezius muscle), this point will most likely be tender.
Stimulate this point the same as GB-20 and BL-10.
Located on the midline at the nape of the neck in the depression immediately below the external occipital protuberance (the bony part the sticks out at the back of the skull).
This point is also great for dizziness, skin rashes
Stimulate this point as you would GB-20.
Located behind the ear at the midpoint between GB-20 and the point where the ear lobe meets the jaw (also known as Sanjiao-17). Upon palpation, this point lies just posterior (behind) to where the sternocleidomastoid muscle inserts into the skull. This point should be very tender to touch.
This point is also strongly indicated for insomnia.
Stimulate the same as GB-20.
Homing Medicines for Occipital Headaches:
- Chinese herbs Qiang Huo (notopterygium root), Man Jing Zi (vitex fruit / chaste tree berry) and Gao Ben (ligusticum root aka Chinese lovage root) are excellent supplements to help alleviate Taiyang headaches, especially due to common colds.
4. Vertex Headache
Also known as the crown or top of the head, vertex headaches belong to the Jueyin meridian. This type of headache can also involve the eyes, similar to headaches or migraines that occur “behind the eyes”.
This point lies on the top of the head, as if you are drawing a line straight up from apex of the two ears.
This point should be stimulated in a pumping (press-release-press-release) manner for approximately 1 minute.
Homing Medicines for vertex headaches:
- The Chinese herb Wu Zhu Yu (evodia fruit) is classically indicated for vertex headaches and can also help with nausea and vomiting.
** The points and homing remedies suggested are only a part of a treatment plan. There are many more points and remedies available. It is highly suggested to visit with a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner / Registered Acupuncturist should you have recurrent headaches. **