Migraine headaches are quite debilitating, and individuals suffering from them can find them hard to manage without taking prescription medication. Acupuncture can help alleviate the pain associated with migraines.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine where practitioners insert single-use, stainless steel needles into particular points of the body. People can use acupuncture in place of conventional treatment or use it alongside them.
In this article, we will explore the acupuncture benefits for migraines.
What Is Migraine?
Migraine is a neurological condition that can lead to several symptoms. Its often characterized by severe, debilitating headaches. Migraines typically run in families and impact people of every age group.
Migraine headaches are diagnosed based on reported symptoms, clinical history, and by factoring out other causes. There are two common categories of migraine headaches – the first one is without aura, and the second one is with aura.
A person can either experience migraines from childhood, or they might not experience them until early adulthood. Females are more likely than males to experience migraines. The most common risk factor for having migraines is family history.
Symptoms of Migraine
Migraine symptoms might appear a couple of days before the actual headache. This is called the prodrome stage. The symptoms of this stage generally include:
- Food cravings
- Low energy or fatigue
- Neck stiffness
- Frequent yawning
In migraine with aura, the aura occurs after the prodrome stage. During an aura, you might experience problems with your movement, speech, sensation, and vision. Examples of these problems include:
- Experiencing a tingling or prickling sensation in your arms, legs, or face
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Seeing bright spots, shapes, or light flashes
- Short-term vision loss.
The subsequent phase is the attack phase. It is the most severe or acute phase, as this is when the actual migraine pain happens. The symptoms of this phase can last anywhere from hours to days. Symptoms of a migraine can differ amongst different people. Certain symptoms might include:
- Feeling faint or dizziness
- Heightened sensitivity to sound and light
- Pain on one side of your side, either on the right side, left side, back, or front
- Throbbing head pain.
Once the attack phase is over, a person will usually experience the postdrome phase. In this phase, there are typically changes in feelings and mood.
The intensity and length of these phases can occur to different degrees in different individuals.
Causes of Migraine
Doctors haven’t discovered the exact cause of migraine headaches. However, they have identified some factors that can contribute to the condition. This encompasses changes in brain chemicals, like a decrease in the levels of serotonin.
Other factors that can cause a migraine headache include:
- Severe heat or other extreme weather conditions
- Bright lights
- Excessive stress
- Hormonal changes in females, like fluctuations in progesterone and estrogen during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
- Loud sounds
- Skipping meals
- Intense physical exercise
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Use of certain medicines, like oral contraceptives
Acupuncture Benefits for Migraine
Acupuncture is a kind of traditional Chinese medicine that places needles at particular points on the skin. The goal is to alter the energy flow through the body, leading to harmony and balance. Other effects that acupuncture can produce include:
- Easing the muscles
- Enhancing blood circulation
- Allowing the body to release pain-alleviating chemicals, like endorphins.
Many studies suggest that acupuncture might help treat migraine pain and headaches.
Some advantages of acupuncture for headaches and migraines include:
1. Prevent Headaches
An increasing body of research suggests that acupuncture might help prevent migraine headaches or reduce their frequency. It might be more effective than commonly used headache treatments, including prescription migraine medications.
2. Lower Side Effects
Individuals might experience adverse side effects with migraine medication or have medical conditions that make conventional medicines unsafe. Acupuncture can be a feasible alternative.
Research on Acupuncture for Migraine
A 2016 Cochrane review compared 22 trials of acupuncture for migraines. Certain studies compared acupuncture to no treatment, whereas others compared acupuncture and medication or acupuncture and fake acupuncture.
Researchers discovered that acupuncture was beneficial in all three situations. The results of acupuncture surpassed fake acupuncture, conventional migraine treatment, and no other treatment.
In a 2012 randomized controlled trial, 480 patients received either one of three kinds of acupuncture, including fake acupuncture or electrical acupuncture. The acupuncture groups reported minor improvements in their headache frequency 5 – 8 weeks from the start of the treatment. From week 13 – 16, all acupuncture groups reported major improvements as compared to those who received fake acupuncture.
If you are searching for alternative treatments for migraines, along with conventional treatment methods, you might find success with acupuncture.
At the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) Main Clinic, we provide acupuncture treatments that help you take control of your symptoms. Call our main clinic at 713-780-9786. We also provide treatments at the Houston Methodist Hospital location. Contact us at 713-441-5980.