Acupuncture for migraines is an alternative treatment that takes a holistic approach to healing. Acupuncture is a well-honed system of medicine that has been perfected over the course of its 2,000 year history. Thin, virtually painless needles are inserted into acupuncture points on the body. These points are related to different organ systems and body functions and lie along energetic channels known as the meridians. The meridians carry life energy, or Qi, throughout the body. When Qi is imbalanced or blocked it results in illness and various conditions of the mind, body, and spirit. By stimulating acupuncture points, blockages are removed to allow for a free flow of Qi throughout the meridians. All aspects of a person are brought into balance for enhanced wellbeing and good health.
Acupuncture doesn’t merely treat the symptoms of migraines, but looks for the underlying cause of the severe headaches. An acupuncturist will attempt to discover the patterns of disharmony to create a customized treatment plan. External pathogens such as wind and heat can cause blockages along the meridians and hamper the flow of Qi and blood to the head. Internal dysfunctions, such as the stagnation of phlegm or liver Qi, hyperactive liver yang, or deficiency of kidney Qi, further lead to migraines. An examination and understanding of the symptoms is important for a diagnosis. Choosing the appropriate acupuncture points depends upon the internal and external pathogens that cause the migraines and thus create the symptoms.
Acupuncture for migraines has no inherent side effects. Because the mind, body, and spirit are harmonized, the benefits are long lasting. In addition to banishing or reducing the frequency of migraines, the body is detoxified, balanced, rejuvenated, and energized, resulting in better overall health. Acupuncture can address a current migraine or act as a preventative treatment. It’s all natural and doesn’t require chemicals or pharmaceutical cocktails. Therefore, it’s the ideal alternative to treatments common in Western medicine.
The Benefits of Acupuncture for Headaches
Still on the fence about trying acupuncture for migraines? Take a look at a few of the many benefits of the holistic treatment:
- Acupuncture is all-natural and does not require you to ingest synthetic chemicals, such as those found in migraine medications.
- Acupuncture for migraines pinpoints the root causes of the condition to create true internal change, as well as alleviating the symptoms.
- Acupuncturists provide a customized treatment to fit your individual needs and pattern of symptoms.
- Acupuncture relieves stress and tension, leaving you feeling relaxed. This breaks the cycle of pain, tension, worsening pain, more tension, etc., that can keep a migraine going strong.
- Studies have shown that acupuncture is more cost effective than drug therapy. You’ll save money on doctor visits, prescriptions, and over-the-counter remedies.
- Acupuncture for migraines can provide pain relief during a migraine attack, but is also powerful preventative medicine to lessen the frequency and severity of future migraines.
- Acupuncture for migraines treats the mind, body, and spirit, increasing your overall sense of wellbeing.
- As a form of holistic medicine, all aspects of your health are improved, not merely the migraines. It boosts your immune system, calms the mind, increases your energy, diminishes pain, detoxifies the body, and works to banish all ailments.
- Research indicates that acupuncture results in fewer migraines, a better quality of life, a reduction in the use of medication, and fewer missed days of work.
- Acupuncture for migraines has no side effects, unlike those common in drug therapy.
- Acupuncture for migraines provides long lasting results. You won’t need to have acupuncture forever. When relying on medications, you could be tethered to them for life.
- Acupuncture for allergies stimulates the body’s natural healing response. You will heal, as opposed to just masking the symptoms.
- Acupuncture for allergies brings the Qi back into balance to foster harmony and rejuvenation in all of the body systems.
How Does Acupuncture for Migraines Work?
This happens to be the million dollar question. Acupuncture has been practiced for over 2,000 years and traditional Chinese medicine has well-established principles concerning how acupuncture for migraines works. In the Western world, the subtle energetic body is passed over in favor of the physical body. Therefore, the underlying mechanism through which acupuncture heals has been the subject of much debate.
Traditional Chinese medicine views the mind, body, and spirit as a whole. A physical symptom, such as nausea related to a migraine, is only one piece of the puzzle. To diagnose and treat migraines, acupuncturists take into account the entire constitution, the root cause of the migraines, internal and external pathogens, and the flow of Qi or energy in the body. Since the meridians, or channels that carry Qi, encompass all of the organ systems, a deficiency in a seemingly unrelated organ, could be the underlying cause of the migraines.
The placement of needles in acupuncture points along the body, unblocks the Qi and allows it to reach, energize, and nourish every area. It is thought that free-flowing Qi allows the mind, body, and spirit to function at an optimal level and lets one achieve good health. All of the imbalances in the body are reset, which in turn harmonizes body function and stimulates the body’s natural healing response. Blood and energy can reach the brain to alleviate the headaches without pharmaceutical intervention. As an added benefit, the process of acupuncture is relaxing to both the mind and body. This relaxation further helps to put an end to migraine pain.
Scientific studies have used brain imaging and other technology in an attempt to find the physiological causes for acupuncture’s success. Acupuncture for migraines is thought to alter the brain’s perception of pain. The placement of needles stimulates the central nervous system and encourages the release of neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and natural opiods. Not only is pain perceived differently, but these internal pain killers relieve pain immediately. The release of neurohormones is thought to be responsible for hindering nerve impulses, which can lessen the intensity of future migraines.
The immune system cells are also called into action to create a natural healing effect. When combined with the cascade of brain chemicals and hormones, change is created inside of the body and the individual becomes enveloped in a sense of wellbeing. Boosting the mood makes pain easier to deal with. The release of muscle tension serves to further increase blood flow to the aching brain.
What can be agreed upon, is that acupuncture for migraines triggers the body’s natural healing response and is a holistic, effective way to treat and prevent migraines. With no side effects and results that have a positive affect on your physical and mental health, acupuncture for migraines should be considered for managing the condition.
Does It Really Work?
Acupuncture for migraines does work. In fact, it’s highly effective. A growing number of Western physicians have been referring patients to acupuncturists as a form of integrative therapy. Whether acupuncture is done in conjunction with Western medical treatments or as a treatment on its own, research has shown:
- Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain published a study revealing acupuncture improved migraines, not only during a migraine episode, but also over a long-term period of time.
The study’s author wrote, “Data showed improvement greater than 33% for 69% of patients at post-treatment and 58% of patients at 3-year follow-up. Drug intake was reduced to 50% and did not re-increase until follow-up.”
- Web MD cited research published in the British Medical Journal, where 401 adults suffering from migraines were placed into either a group that received 12 acupuncture sessions during a three month period in addition to standard medical care or a group that received standard medical care only. One year after the study ended, those who received acupuncture had 22 fewer headaches, used 15-percent less medication, made 25-percent fewer doctor visits, and took 15-percent less sick days than the control group.
“Researchers found that compared with standard medical care, acupuncture offered substantial benefits in preventing headaches and improving quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, especially migraines,” said the author.
- Acupuncture Today reported on a study with results published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Half of the subjects received acupuncture while the other half took courses of different prescription migraine medications. The group that received acupuncture experienced substantially fewer symptoms without aura than any of the pharmacological treatments.
According to the author, the study revealed that patients who received acupuncture, “experienced fewer migraine episodes, missed fewer days from work, and suffered no side effects compared to patients on conventional drug therapy. They also found acupuncture to be more cost-efficient.”
The positive results continue to be unmasked by research. These are only a few of the many studies that have concluded that acupuncture for migraines is effective. Acupuncture is an all-natural, safe way to experience long lasting relief.
Acupuncture for Migraines: Your Questions Answered
We’ve covered what exactly acupuncture for migraines is, how it works, the fact that it does really work, and its benefits. Do you still have some burning questions? Rest easy, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning acupuncture for migraines:
Question: Does acupuncture for migraines hurt?
Answer: The short answer is no. The process of inserting the needles is virtually painless. They are hair thin, flexible, sterile needles and nothing like the needles used for drawing blood or giving injections. They are inserted shallowly and most people don’t even realize they’ve been placed. You may feel heat, a dull ache, or tingling in certain areas, but it’s not painful. If a needle does for some reason hurt, tell your acupuncturist. Even those with extreme needle phobia will find that an acupuncture session is actually relaxing.
Question: Where will the practitioner stick the needles?
Answer: Every person will have different acupuncture points stimulated based on their diagnosis and pattern of symptoms. All areas of the body are interconnected. Therefore an imbalance in the liver Qi, for example, could be the cause of the migraines. In that case, needles would be inserted along the liver meridian. It depends upon your particular case. Needles are sometimes placed in spots along the hands, feet, arms, ears, legs, neck, and head. A classical acupuncture session will usually involve between four and eight needles.
Question: Why does an acupuncture migraine specialist want to look at my tongue?
Answer: The practitioner looks at your tongue to gauge its size, shape, color, positioning, and coating. These factors are a wealth of information concerning your health and condition. For example, if you have the flu your tongue typically turns red. It’s the shift in appearance that indicates a variety of internal factors.
Question: How much does an acupuncture session cost?
Answer: The cost varies by acupuncturist. Some health insurance providers are starting to cover acupuncture and others often reimburse at least a portion of the cost. A private one-on-one session can range anywhere from $50 to $120, primarily depending upon where you live. As compared to doctor visits, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medications it is substantially cheaper, even if you are only paying a co-pay. The point of acupuncture is to help you achieve good health so that you can stay out of the doctor’s office.
To reduce the cost, inquire as to whether your employer will cover it through your flex spending account. Or try acupuncture in a community setting. In this situation, you have a brief consultation and then receive treatment in a room with others. Be sure to ask your acupuncturist about sliding scale fees, as well. Acupuncture for migraines isn’t a lifelong treatment. You will save money in the end by getting to the root of the problem and obtaining lasting relief.
Question: How long does an acupuncture for migraines session last?
Answer: The initial appointment takes a bit longer, as the acupuncturist will examine you, take your health history, ask you questions about your symptoms, lifestyle, and treatment goals, and determine a diagnosis. Subsequent appointments typically last less than an hour.
Question: How many sessions will I need before I feel relief?
Answer: The number of sessions is different for everyone. Many people notice some relief and feel relaxed after one session. Others, it takes two or three sessions to notice a change. The longer the migraines have been going on, typically the longer the treatment will need to be. It can range from a few sessions to several months of weekly sessions. Your acupuncturist can help to estimate the duration of your treatment.
Question: What do I wear to an acupuncture session?
Answer: Wear loose, comfortable clothing that can easily be rolled up to allow access to different acupuncture points. Shorts and a t-shirt are perfect, weather permitting.
Question: Is acupuncture for migraines safe?
Answer: Acupuncture is natural and completely safe. In fact, it’s much safer than taking medication. There are no inherent side effects or discomfort associated with it.