Acupuncture for Migraines
by Grace Ganel L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., C.Z.B.
Migraines are common
Migraine headaches suck. First it’s a weird light in the corner of your eye, or a wave of nausea. “Uh oh,” you think to yourself. You know that when that happens, you’re about to lose your whole day to a migraine headache.
You’re not alone with this problem! In a survey of adults 18 or older in the United States, 16.6% respondents reported recent migraine or other severe headache (1). Migraine is commonly treated using acute pain medications, to treat the pain while it is present. Many people with migraines also take preventative medications, to keep the pain from occurring in the first place. Preventative migraine medications often have dangerous side-effects which lead patients to seek alternative care options such as acupuncture (2). According to several studies, acupuncture may help decrease migraine pain similarly to traditional medications. Plus, acupuncture does not have the same undesired effects as medications (3,4,5,6).
Acupuncture is an evidence-based treatment for Migraines
When I administer acupuncture to patients during an active migraine, they often report decreased migraine pain and duration. Similarly, when I work with clients to prevent migraines, they often report first decreased severity and then decreased frequency.
Several studies support using acupuncture to decrease the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Some of these studies compare acupuncture with some of the most commonly prescribed migraine medications. In general these studies support using acupuncture. Acupuncture might take a little longer to take effect than medications. Still, the studies suggest that after several treatments acupuncture can be as good at preventing migraines as medication, without the side effects of those medications (3, 4, 5, 6)***.
Chinese medicine can identify several types of migraines
No two people with migraines are the same. Although I use a particular set of points any time a patient is in my office with an active migraine, the way that I approach migraine prevention depends on the individual and the symptoms they experience. As your acupuncturist, I will want to learn all about your migraines. I will ask where you typically feel migraine pain, as well as what other symptoms and triggers might accompany the migraines. All of this information informs the treatment strategy I will employ to get to the bottom of your migraine disorder.
Tune in for the next few weeks as we explore several patterns of migraine presentation! If you suffer with migraines, you might just find one or more of these will sound very familiar…
Sneak peak at the types of migraines we will explore:
- One-sided head pain. “PMS” symptoms like breast tenderness, mood irregularities, and mild cramping. Click here for this blog post!
- Distending pressure in the head. The pain is behind the temple or behind the eye. The eye lid(s) might twitch, and there might be visual symptoms. Click here the post about this type of migraine!
- Severe pain right on top of the head with nausea and chills. Click here for the blog post about this migraine pattern!
- A sensation like a tight band is wrapped around the head. The limbs and head may feel heavy. This syndrome also includes fatigue and poor appetite. Click here to learn about acupuncture for migraines like this!
- Immovable, fixed pain. “Like there’s an ice pick in my head.” The headaches last for a long time. This person might have symptoms during menstruation such as severe cramping and dark and clotted menstrual blood. Click here to learn about acupuncture for this type of headache!
So follow along with this series of blogs to learn more about these types of migraines. Each of these migraine disorders has its own specific causes and treatments. I’ll also include lifestyle recommendations for each migraine disorder type in my coming blog posts, so click the links above to learn about what changes you can make to help prevent your migraines!
Schedule your appointment now for help with migraine headaches
Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do any of the bullet points above sound very familiar? Contact me or click “Book Now” to schedule an appointment! I love helping people who suffer with migraine symptoms.
***Always consult with the doctor who prescribed you a medication if you want to change your medication in any way. Do not go off of a prescribed medication without talking with a trained and licensed allopathic medicine physician first! If you are having a severe medical event which you believe to be connected to a medication, bring your complete medication list with you to urgent care or the ER, calling for an ambulance if you believe your condition to be immediately life-threatening.***
1) Smitherman, Burch, Sheikh, and Loder, (2013). “The prevalence, impact, and treatment of migraine and severe headaches in the United States: A review of statistics from National Surveillance Studies.” Headache, 53(3).
2) Goadsby and Sprenger, (2010). “Current practice and future directions in the prevention and acute management of migraine.” The Lancet, 9.
3) Allias, DeLorenzo, Quirico, Airola, Toledo, Mana, and Benedetto, (2002). “Acupuncture in the prophylactic treatment of migraine without aura: A comparison with flunarizine.” Headache, 42.
4) Facco, Liguori, Petti, Fauci, Cavallin, and Zanette, (2013).
Acupuncture versus valproic acid in the prophylaxis of migraine without aura: A prospective controlled study.” Minerva Anestesiologica, 79 (6).
5) Yang, Chang, Liu, Hseih, Hwang, and Chang, (2011). “Acupuncture versus topiramate in chronic migraine prophylaxis: A randomized clinical trial.” Cephalalgia, 31(15).
6) Vickers, Rees, Zollman, McCarney, Smith, Ellis, Fisher, and Haslen, (2004). “Acupuncture for chronic headaches in primary care: Large, pragmatic, randomised trial.” BMJ, 328(7442).