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Acupuncture for Migraines

Acupuncture for Migraines

by Grace Ganel L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., C.Z.B.

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. Luckily, acupuncture can be a great complementary intervention for migraines.

Migraines are common

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.

I almost always use this point when I’m treating an active migraine! Folks who are pregnant should skip it, though, and set up a virtual call with me for more individualized support.

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.