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How Effective is Acupressure for Headaches?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated May 17, 2024
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The use of acupressure for headaches is based on an ancient Chinese system of stimulating active points and influencing the flow of energy through the body. Western medicine has been slow to recognize the benefits of acupressure but accepts that the method may lead to an increase in endorphins, the body's natural painkiller, which leads to a relaxation and normalization of body functions. Many people have found that the use of acupressure for headaches is very effective and sometimes succeeds where medication does not.

The Chinese have located points around the body that affect the flow of chi, or life energy. Each of these active points, also known as trigger points, is located on a meridian or imaginary line that indicates where the energy flows. Eastern medicine believes that illness or aches and pains are caused when the flow of chi is blocked. The application of pressure on the active points clears the passage so that energy flow can be restored.

To get rid of a headache, the main trigger points are just below the back of the skull; the temples; between the eyebrows; the area on the palm of the hand between the thumb and forefinger; and the area between the base of the big toe and the second toe. When the points are massaged, they should feel tender. If enough pressure is applied, it should produce a dull ache. If the massaging continues and a deeper pressure applied, the pain should begin to subside until a numbing sensation is achieved. There is no limit to how many times acupressure can be applied during the day.

Qualified practitioners can be consulted or acupressure can be used as a self-help therapy at home, provided certain precautions are taken. Some of the main techniques used in the application of the acupressure are pressing, kneading, rubbing and pushing. It is not necessary to activate all the relevant pressure points. In the case of using acupressure for headaches, the exact location of the pain will dictate which trigger points to target.

Acupressure is a safe way of treating headaches, but if there are any health issues then care needs to be taken. Pregnant women should not use acupressure for headaches, as stimulation of some of the trigger points may also cause uterine contractions. High blood pressure is a condition that can be treated by acupressure, but the activation of certain points may exacerbate the problem. Medical advice should be sought before trying acupressure as an alternative headache treatment.

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