Abdominal acupuncture used to treat a chronic headache

Chronic Headache. Neck and Shoulder Pain

Catherine had once had acupuncture to quit smoking but it didn’t work! (Here come Dave’s rant; “I hate when I hear this because it is a great cop out and is much easier to blame acupuncture than to take responsibility for poor decisions or having no will power”). Catherine then acknowledged that she never wanted to stop smoking anyway, but still had little hope that acupuncture could help with her long term, stress levels, frequent headaches, severe neck and shoulder pain. 

Catherine was in her late sixties when I first met her, she was quite Bohemian, young at heart and had lived a chequered life to date, she was a recovering alcoholic with seven years of sobriety. Catherine had a couple of children one of whom was causing a lot of stress and sadness for her. Stress made her symptoms worse, she tried to minimise the impact of the stress and worry of having a drug addicted daughter with no fixed abode!  

Catherine complained of having very restricted movement with pain moving along the GB channel from GB 21(Jian Jing) - GB20 (Feng Chi) on each side, with a burning pain at Du 14 (Da Zhu), the pain referred down her right arm sometimes, especially when there was added concern about her daughters condition and where about’s! Her headaches seemed to be with her most days and travelled through the GB meridian and towards extra point Taiyang (Ex-HN-5).   

First Abdominal Acupuncture treatment

We did a number of test’s, when she was sitting down including the “Spurling”, (neck compression test) which was negative, when she lay down and tested the range of motion by turning her head from side to side, it was quite restricted and I had her focus on this pain, and asked her to give it a base reference point score of 10 out of 10!

I assessed her abdomen and discovered ahshi points close to Ren 10 (Xiawan) and Kid 17 (Shangqu) on the left side. The only other point worth noting was the asymmetry of her abdomen, the left side was quite a bit larger than the right. With this asymmetry I corrected it by using the cun Metre and correcting the different measurements so that the Stomach and the Kidney meridian, line measurements were slightly different for each side. 

The prescription for this treatment was "Heaven & Earth" Ren 12 (Zhongwan) and Ren 4 (Guanyuan) Kid 17 (Shangqu)  and St 24 Shoulder (Huaroumen) were used bilaterally. The Ahshi point that I found which reflected Du 14 (Da Zhu), 0.2 cun below Ren 10 (Xiawan) was needled quite superficially, the needles were fixed to the required depth, and the affect of the treatment was checked. The reference point score was now at 5 out of 10 on the right side of the neck and shoulder, Du 14 (Da Zhu)  was no longer burning (i.e. zero out of 10). The left side pain was more localised at the base of her neck, I adjusted Kid 17 (Shangqu) on the left to correct the problem with the neck muscles and then added an ahshi slightly inferior and lateral to Kid 17 (Shangqu) on the left side, see plate 1. 

Plate1 Catherines first abdominal treatment.

Once again I checked how the pain was, the reference point score was now at 3 out of 10 on the left and I encouraged her to move her shoulders and rotate her head from side to side, to help Qi to circulate more in the affected area. I then withdrew the Kid 17 (Shangqu) point slightly and suddenly the pain was gone, there was only a slight memory at the nape of neck. Next I adjusted the left side St 24 Shoulder (Huaroumen) by bringing the needle slightly deeper, when I checked again the pain was gone. Finally I added Kid 13 (Qixue) bilaterally as there was a vertebrae problem, Catherine left in amazement, delighted with the results, maybe now acupuncture could help me stop smoking she laughed, but then I don’t want to stop! 

Second Abdominal Acupuncture treatment

It was four weeks until I saw Catherine again, she said that she had been a little sore for 36 hours after the first session, and then the pain eased and disappeared. She then went travelling on a busy city tour, she had five days of travelling with lots of sights, walking tours, Planes, Trains and Automobiles! She was amazed and delighted that she had no pain at all, even though she was carrying a rucksack most of the time. She had not had a headache since, she had no need for pain relief which she had previously been pretty much dependent on. Her pain was now at 30% of what it was originally, on the right and practically gone on the left.

I quickly palpated her abdomen and found a small node approx 0.3 cun lateral to Ren 10.7, there were no other ahshi points at this stage but Ren 10 (Xiawan) had a stiffness that I felt should be addressed .The prescription used Ren 12 (Zhongwan) Ren 10 (Xiawan) and Ren 4 (Guanyuan) Kid 17 (Shangqu) ipsilateral on the left and an ahshi between Ren 10 (Xiawan) and Ren 11 (Jianli) , very superficial see plate 2. Tested the pain and mobility was able to move better and was now free of pain after moving head from side to side she acknowledged she could not do that earlier. Very appreciative and delighted with her new found belief in acupuncture! 

Plate 2: Catherine’s second Abdominal acupuncture treatment. 

Catherine Continues to combat her chronic Cervical vertebrae problems

Two weeks later I treated Catherine for the third time, and she was doing great, with only marginal discomfort at the base of her neck on the right which sometimes referred towards GB 21. I used a similar prescription to her second treatment, except the ahshi point (near Ren 11 (Jianli) ) on this occasion was more medial than previously. The result of this gave complete relief to the discomfort and improved the range of motion, which was now close to normal. 

Over the following two weeks Catherines worry and stress over her wayward daughters, continuing spiral into addiction. As a result she started to get pain with a burning sensation in her neck again, she got a headache for the first time since original visit eight weeks previously.

Plate 3; Catherines Forth abdominal treatment 

The prescription used was Ren 12 (Zhongwan) Ren 10 (Xiawan) Kid 17 (Shangqu) bilaterally and an ahshi point close to Ren 11 (Jianli), her pain disappeared and she dissolved into a deep slumber (see plate 3). This was the first time to get pain relief since the headache had started five days ago


I continued to see Catherine intermittently for another 3 months and her pain and range of motion continued to improve, the headaches didn’t return to any extent and the triggers were external usually, she started to look at ways of managing her response to these triggers which helped. This case surprised me as to the speed of her recovery, partially because of her initial skepticism, her continued stress but also due to the chronic nature and complexity of this case.