Why Acupuncture Helps Headache Relief

By Yan Jin, Lic. M. Ac.
Senior Staff Acupuncturist
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health


There are many neurological disorders that benefit from acupuncture treatments, one of which are headaches.  The National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization endorses the use of acupuncture for migraine headaches (headaches). Acupuncture is an effective way to treat all kinds of headaches and the results can be close to immediate. Acupuncture is also effective in the prevention of reoccurring headaches.  This is especially good news for chronic headache sufferers.

The Endorphin and Serotonin Connection:

What exactly are “endorphins” and “serotonin?”  Endorphins are chemicals that are produced by the pituitary gland.  They are responsible for many positive effects in our body and mind.  Primarily, they help in controlling pain.  Endorphins can be viewed as pain-killing chemicals that our own bodies produce.  Also, endorphins are known to elevate our moods.  Endorphins are the “feel good” hormone.  People with high endorphin levels can have a more overall positive feeling and can have more energy.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is part of our natural being.  We all have serotonin floating around our bodies.  As a neurotransmitter, it is chemically involved in our nervous system and brain.  Of the many chemicals believed to control mood, serotonin is one of the major elements to determine whether we are anxious, depressed or feeling good. 

Acupuncture research shows that inserting needles into specific body points triggers the production of endorphins.  It is similar to the “high” one can get from vigorous exercise.  Acupuncture can give that same elation in mood, as well as the pain modulation effects endorphins normally give. The latest studies showed that effective acupuncture increased and prolonged the activity of serotonergic neutrons in the reward system pathway of the brain.  This suggest that acupuncture therapy may be effective for the treatment of emotional disorders. 

I often see patients for the treatment of migraine headaches, PMS headaches and tension headaches.  I have found that acupuncture treatment has helped my headache patients and has had a positive effect on their lives.


Yan received his medical degree from the Zhejiang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1982 and is a Diplomate in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology with the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists.

He has practiced at the Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, The Longhua Clinic, and the Clinic of the New England School of Acupuncture, and provides services at the Chinese Natural Health Clinic and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. He has taught in China, Japan, Watertown, and Brookline. His expertise lies in the areas of male infertility, male sexual dysfunction, neurological disorders, and pain management.