Acupuncture Provides Headache Relief for Kansas City Patients

Dr. Jennifer Bickel, headache specialist at the Children's Mercy Headache Relief Clinic, administers acupuncture to relief a patient's headache pain.

Acupuncture Specialists Bring Migraine Relief to Patients

For young patients suffering from headaches, acupuncture is proving to be a great method for pain relief. 

Headache specialists at Children’s Mercy are certified to administer acupuncture therapy as part of patients’ personal treatment plans. Two doctors on the headache team have undergone an intensive acupuncture training program that is specifically designed just for physicians. And the best part is that patients can receive the therapy in the Children’s Mercy Headache Relief Clinic rather than having to visit an outside acupuncture clinic. 

How Does Acupuncture Help Relieve Headaches?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that stimulates points in the body through a series of tiny needles. Modern studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is safe and effective in migraine management. Though we don’t entirely understand how acupuncture works, it does activate and strengthen the body's ability to stop pain. Many traditional acupuncture points correlate closely with important nerve sites or common locations for muscle spasms. The small acupuncture needles stimulate these important areas to release beneficial neurotransmitters throughout the body that aid in stress and pain relief. Sometimes the acupuncture needles can be used to help directly address painful trigger points (muscle knots) through a technique referred to as “dry needling.” The placement of the needles will depend on the patient’s symptoms, preferences, and the doctor’s assessment – no treatment plans are identical. 

How We Administer Acupuncture for Patients

Most patients will receive acupuncture treatments over the course of four to six visits, with each visit lasting roughly an hour. The first visit will be spent mainly talking and educating about acupuncture and developing a treatment plan. Then an introduction to acupuncture will be provided to see how the child responds. The first treatment will generally consist of a few small needles along the outer ear and in the extremities. The provider will assess the child’s response and comfort at each visit to determine the next steps for treatment. At later treatments, the provider may add gentle electrical stimulation to boost the response. Most patients, even children, find acupuncture to be a relaxing experience. If the patient is afraid of needles, sometimes the acupuncture areas can be stimulated without needles such as through acupressure.

The Effectiveness of Acupuncture Treatment

The therapy can have results that are as effective as medication but with fewer side effects. It’s challenging to predict exactly how a person will respond to acupuncture. The majority of patients will have some benefit from acupuncture, ranging in response from mild relief to extraordinary results. About 10% of patients will have no response to acupuncture. As with all headache treatments, it’s vitally important to have a healthy lifestyle, good sleep habits, and stress management in order to get the most benefit from the acupuncture visits. 

If after six treatments the patient does not have enough headache relief, then the acupuncture treatments are ended. For the patients who show a good response, future acupuncture appointments will vary from monthly to only as needed. 

Does acupuncture feel like you are getting a shot? 

No. The needles for acupuncture are very different than the typical needle used for vaccines. Acupuncture needles are thinner and less painful. Sometimes, the patient can’t even feel the needle being inserted. 

What does acupuncture feel like? 

Acupuncture feels different for a lot a people. Often patients will feel the “Qi” which is a tightening, pressure-like sensation at the needle site. This is a good sign demonstrating activation of the nervous system and connective tissue. Tingling and itching are often reported as well. 

What is it like after an acupuncture treatment? 

Most people will feel more relaxed after an acupuncture treatment. For some, this is a deep relaxation which may make them sleepy. 

Are there any restrictions after receiving acupuncture? 

Acupuncture is like a reboot for the nervous system. For the day after receiving acupuncture, avoid intense physical activities but continue with your regular day such as school, light exercise etc. Traditional acupuncture also recommends to avoid big meals and cold foods. 

How to See Us for Acupuncture Therapy

When patients are seen at the Children’s Mercy Headache Relief Clinic, the care team will perform an evaluation to determine whether acupuncture is appropriate. And each treatment is individualized to meet the patient’s needs. The Children’s Mercy headache team is planning to expand its capacity for providing acupuncture, but availability is currently limited. 

To learn more about headache-relief treatment at Children’s Mercy, call (816) 234-3490.