Acupuncture for Migraine and Headache Pain
Updated: Aug 13
A migraine is an extremely painful primary headache disorder. A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head, usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. According to data from the World Health Organization, migraines are prevalent in people between 25 and 45 years of age, and effects 15% of the population. The duration of the attack varies between 4 to 72 hours, and may be shorter in children. For some people, a warning symptom known as an aura occurs before or with the headache. An aura can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking.
Even though migraines are known to be related to changes in the brain and have genetic influence, the exact causes are unknown. The pattern of crisis is always the same for each individual, varying only in intensity. According to several medical studies, women are three times more vulnerable to migraine than men, due to hormonal changes and the reproductive system. Headaches are common with women during the premenstrual period, and more and more women are seeking relief options including acupuncture which is proven to offer relief.
Acupuncture treatment is indicated for all types of headache that are not related to an underlying disease and that have no anatomical cause. Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines uses needle points usually near nerves in your body. The needle stimulates the nerves to release hormones, such as endorphins, that trigger a response from your body. This immune and circulation system stimulation is what proponents of acupuncture claim relieves migraines and tension headaches. Pain stimuli are harmful to the brain, which can vary in results from a change in behavior to a state of shock.
The greatest advantage of acupuncture over Western medicine is that it does virtually no harm. Some medications can have serious side effects and can (in some instances) actually lead to patients experiencing a "rebound" headache. Unlike synthetic drugs, acupuncture has virtually no side effects, and the procedures for treating headaches are much less invasive with acupuncture than alternative methods.
The treatment can initially be done with sessions once or twice a week, lasting from thirty to fifty minutes, and the choice of points will always be individualized and based on the syndromic diagnosis of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Studies from successful relief recommend treatment twice a week for two weeks, followed by one treatment per week for eight weeks, and maintenance treatments of once every other week after that. The results can be seen as early as the first month of treatment, depending on the frequency and intensity of the crises that the patient had before starting acupuncture.
The objective is to make the pain less frequent and less intense, so that the it is not disabling and allows the patient to follow his normal rhythm of life. Patients treated with acupuncture in addition to pain relief, have improved sleep, mood, easier relationships with family and friends, better performance at work and more confidence to face the day-to-day tasks.