Acupuncture and Herbs: The Best Bet for Vascular Headaches

A new research study conducted at the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chongqing Medical University showed acupuncture combined with an herbal formula outperformed nimodipine (sold under the brand names Nimotop and Nymalize) in the treatment of vascular headaches. Vascular headaches are a group of headaches thought to be caused by a malfunction of the brain’s blood vessels or vascular system. This group of headaches includes migraines, toxic headaches and cluster headaches. These results agree with a prior study that found acupuncture as a stand-alone modality effective for the treatment of migraines. These results also confirm what many millions of patients around the world have discovered already: acupuncture is an incredible tool against headaches.

In fact, it was acupuncture’s efficacy at treating headaches that got me interested in this style of medicine in the first place. I have a family member who suffered from chronic migraines for almost as long as I can remember. The headaches would start most often during the weekends. Time that should have been spent rest and relaxing, spending time with friends and family or getting projects done around the house would instead be spent in bed in pain. They were gradually prescribed stronger and stronger pain medications, which did keep the pain under control but would often still send them to bed. The pain was being managed but the time was still being lost. With acupuncture treatments the frequency and severity of the headaches both dropped dramatically to the point where they could often be managed with over-the-counter medications.

What struck me most about the difference between the two medicines was that while Western medicine did accomplish its goal—getting rid of the pain—it ignored the reason that goal was important in the first place. Western drugs tend to be strong and fast-acting but hitting the body that hard and fast comes with a price: side-effects. Sometimes that price is worth paying. If I’m ever in a serious accident or have a heart attack you can bet you’ll find me headed to the nearest hospital at top speed. If I have a serious infection I’ll take the antibiotics and repair my GI flora later. When, you know, I’m not maybe going to die.

Traditional therapies, in general, take longer to work but because they respect the body’s own pace they offer far fewer side-effects and unintended consequences. Too many people are paying a price that they don’t have to because they think it’s the only way to get the relief they’re seeking. Everyone’s health is unique to themselves. We all have our own goals, our own set of things we have to get done each day, our own tolerance for discomfort. Striking a healthy balance between Western medicine and Traditional therapies means respecting each person and what they are trying to accomplish in their lives.

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