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Migraine Relief With Acupuncture

Migraines are a primary headache disorder – thought to begin as an electrical phenomenon in the cerebrum that then affects blood vessels, biochemistry, and causes neurogenic inflammation – manifesting as recurring attacks (usually lasting for 4 to 72 hours) involving pain of moderate to severe intensity.

Acupuncture studies in headache have concentrated almost entirely on the prevention of headache rather than acute treatment. A Cochrane systematic review first published in 2001 analysed 16 studies involving 1151 patients and concluded that ‘the existing evidence supports the value of acupuncture for the treatment of idiopathic headaches’, but called for further large-scale studies. Large, randomised controlled clinical trials involving several thousand patients have now been conducted, funded by German health insurance companies. These studies have compared acupuncture with standard treatment (drugs and advice given by physicians) and demonstrate persistent and clinically relevant benefits under real-life conditions and equivalence to specialist drug management.

A major problem in acupuncture research is that most clinical trials in headache are ‘randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trials’, which means that the treatment (typically a drug) is compared with a ‘placebo’ or dummy tablet of identical appearance so that neither the patients nor the researchers know which is which.

7-Signs-That-You-May-Be-Having-A-MigraineThis following is an extract from an article posted on Yoganonymous (follow the link to read the full article) by Stacey Pino :-

“Suffering from intense migraines since my early 30s, I’d tried every imaginable treatment. I have cataloged my “triggers” in the hopes that by avoiding them, I’d prevent future episodes. When my triggers turned out to be rain, snow, pollen, stress, monthly hormonal changes…and wine, I knew I needed another approach. Over the counter medications didn’t cut it either. They barely took the edge off of the pain. Prescription meds did the trick, but left me so tired and groggy I could barely function. I was always back where I started.

I had resigned myself to a life dotted with these blank spaces of days that I just couldn’t be a part of because of my migraines. That is, until relief arrived in the form of a mysterious 2,000-year-old therapy. A few years ago my mother mentioned that she’d tried acupuncture for knee pain had noticed a difference. It sounded so exotic and invasive. (Maybe it’s the “puncture” part.) But, I was desperate for relief and therefore a willing pincushion. After discovering that treatment was covered by my health insurance, I found a nearby clinic right in my own town. Maybe acupuncture wasn’t so exotic after all?

After a brief consultation about my health history, physical concerns, and lifestyle, it was time to begin. The acupuncturist dimmed the lights, played the regulation “zen” soundtrack, and lit candles. Lying on my back on a massage table, I was nervous but hopeful. The practitioner quickly inserted paper thin needles at strategic points up and down my body. I felt no pain and was surprisingly relaxed. I was left to rest in the quiet room with the first batch of needles. They were everywhere: my ears, temples, arms, and ankles. Thin metal wires were poking out at every angle. It was heaven.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of medicine based on re-booting the meridians, or pathways throughout the body that carry energy or “chi.” Illness and pain erupt when chi is blocked. Needles are inserted at certain points on the body that correspond to body parts or health systems of concern. Within a single visit I knew I was on to something. Leaving the office, I felt blissful. I had decompressed so much that it took me a few minutes to gather my bearings before driving home.

Sessions followed weekly for the next month or so, and then staggered to monthly once I began to feel relief. Two weeks after my first appointment, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a single headache since the previous visit. The benefits of acupuncture were confirmed when the first snowstorm of the winter passed uneventfully for me. Intense weather like a snowstorm had always guaranteed a migraine for me in the past. But this year I went sledding with the kids. I enjoyed every moment of it.

Acupuncture continues to be a blessing for me for preventing migraines. It does require a commitment. When I don’t keep up with my appointments, I’m right back where I started. The amount of emotional and physical conditions that acupuncture has been known to treat is impressive. Besides leaving me pain-free, I generally feel more patient, optimistic, and grounded after a session.

For me the best part about acupuncture is that it is the natural option. There are no side effects to consider. I don’t have to wonder what it’s doing to my organs.”

In so-called ‘pragmatic’ studies, the real-world effectiveness of acupuncture has been assessed when given in addition to usual treatment. Patients are randomized to ‘acupuncture’ or ‘no additional treatment (standard GP management) without the use of a placebo. In one such study, patients suffering with chronic headache (80% with migraine) were given 12 sessions of acupuncture over 3 months. This resulted in 34% fewer headache days, 15% less medication, 15% fewer days off work and 25% fewer GP visits after one year.

The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, part of University College Hospital NHS Trust, introduced acupuncture into the NHS in 1977.

Diener HC. et al. Efficacy of acupuncture for the prophylaxis of migraine: a multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. Lancet Neurol. 2006 Apr;5(4):310-6.
Linde K, Streng A, Jurgens S, Hoppe A, Brinkhaus B, Witt C et al. Acupuncture for patients with migraine: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2005;293(17):2118-25.
Vickers A. et al. Acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care: large, pragmatic, randomised trial BMJ 2004;328;744-9.
Wonderling D et al. Cost effectiveness analysis of a randomised trial of acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care. BMJ 2004;328;747.