Have you ever experienced a migraine? If you have, then you know they are much more than a simple headache. A migraine is a unique condition that involves a number of symptoms, including intense throbbing pain (usually on one side of the head); nausea; loss of vision or “aura” in front of the eyes; sensitivity to light and sound; and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. The Migraine Research Foundation reports that the pulsing and excruciating pain associated with migraines can be so devastating that over 90 percent of sufferers cannot perform or function efficiently during an attack (1). Most people who suffer from migraines choose traditional pain relievers and other pharmaceutical solutions to help treat their condition, but there has been a rapidly growing interest in using natural therapies like acupuncture.
Does acupuncture work for migraines? Acupuncture can help treat migraines in a number of ways:
Acupuncture breaks the cycle of tension and pain during a migraine by relaxing tensed muscles. When we are in pain, our muscles tense up as a reaction, which often makes the problem worse. Acupuncture helps relax the strained muscles in the neck and upper back that contribute most to the symptoms of a migraine headache (2).
Acupuncture regulates the pain centers of the brain. In the 2009 report from the Cochrane Library, the results of 12 random trials involving 2,317 total participants were examined. The focus of the study was the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating migraines, as opposed to patients who received no routine care. Results showed that 47% of those who received acupuncture reported a reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks by at least 50 percent, compared to a 16% reduction for those who received no treatment (3).
Acupuncture help calm the mind and bring balance in your life, which enhances your ability to deal with stress (another big contributing factor to migraines). Acupuncture increases activity of the brain centers that are involved in rest and relaxation, and it inhibits activity involved in recognition of pain. Acupuncture also suppresses any unnecessary activity of sympathetic nervous system. It is not uncommon for patients to fall asleep during their acupuncture therapy, as they attain a deep level of relaxation.
Acupuncture triggers the release of neurotransmitter Serotonin and Endorphins that relax the body and reduce painful sensations (4).
In recent years, acupuncture has been recognized as a safe, effective alternative treatment for migraines. It has been recommended by World Health Organization (5), and has gained approval from a number of reputable organizations such as National Institutes of Health (6).
Here are some of the benefits of using acupuncture as an effective alternative treatment for migraines, compared with conventional medical practices:
1. Acupuncture is safe. Acupuncture performed by qualified practitioners using clean needle techniques is a safe procedure (7).
2. Acupuncture is better than traditional migraine medication. A study that compared the efficacy and tolerability of acupuncture compared to Topimarate, a drug indicated for the prevention of chronic migraine. Results showed that acupuncture is more effective in preventing migraine attacks than Topimarate (8). Acupuncture also does not have any of the negative side effects that are often associated with the drugs used to ease migraines.
3. Acupuncture targets the root cause of the migraine. Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, causing the release of neurochemical messengers. This results in biochemical changes, affecting the balance of the energies in the body, and ultimately promotes emotional and physical well-being. Migraine pain can be both relieved and prevented by stimulating the specific acupuncture points (called Acupoints or meridians) associated with the condition (9).
Though acupuncture does use needles in the therapy, it is in reality a nearly painless procedure that produces a deep, lasting relaxation in patients. It is a natural therapy that is gaining more and more approval as an effective compliment to conventional medical care. If you would like to know if acupuncture may be an option for you to manage migraines, call us to schedule a free 15 minute evaluation consultation.