Acupuncture for Migraine Headache
Migraine headaches can be debilitating and dramatically compromise quality of life. People who suffer migraines may be unable to perform normal tasks like driving, reading, concentrating or physical activity. This is often because the pain is so intense migraine sufferers have difficulty tolerating light or sounds and may experience nausea or vomiting. Extreme cases of migraine headaches may necessitate the afflicted to lie quietly in a dark room for a day or more as migraines are known to last as long as 72 hours. Some migraine sufferers experience weekly migraines, while others may have them a few times per year. Acupuncture for migraine headache is one of the best remedies because it treats the condition from roots.
Women are 3 times more likely to suffer from migraines than men. There is a genetic risk factor for those with family members who also suffer migraines.
Common symptoms of migraine include:
- throbbing, pulsing pain
- pain on one side
- visual aura
- changes in vision
- light sensitivity
- sound sensitivity
- nausea and vomiting
- vertigo or dizziness
- mood changes
- neck pain
- numbness or tingling
In Western medicine researchers are unsure what causes migraine headaches, but they do know it involves changes in the blood flow to the brain. Initially blood vessels constrict, this causes changes in vision, weakness, numbness, tingling, or difficulty speaking. Subsequently the blood vessels of the head dilate causing vessels to enlarge and it’s the dilation that is responsible for the pounding or throbbing head pain.
Some common triggers for migraine headaches include:
- certain foods, especially preserved foods like salami, vinegar, cheese, fermented and pickled foods, chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, and some fruits
- skipping meals
- hormone fluctuations
In traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) the factors which contribute to the development of migraines are similar. What is different between East and West is how migraines are treated.
In TCM, migraines result from a disruption of the circulation of the qi and blood in the head. Acupuncture practitioners analyze the specific details of the headache in order to determine what the pattern of imbalance is.
In other words, a migraine isn’t just a migraine. It is indicative of a larger pattern imbalance: it may fall under a pattern of Liver disharmony that involves qi and blood stagnation, or an insufficiency of Liver yin fluids, or possibly invasion of heat/cold/wind.
The symptoms which accompany the migraine as well as constitutional tendencies all factor into the treatment plan.
Patients who are experiencing symptoms of migraine at the time of the acupuncture treatment commonly have instant relief from pain. Many of Kristin’s patients say that the effect of the acupuncture for migraine headache treatment feels very similar to the way in certain prescription medications, like Imitrex, alleviates the pain.
Acupuncture for migraine headache works to stop both immediate migraine pain and to prevent future episodes.
For patients suffering from migraines, once the pattern of disharmony has been determined, acupuncture treatment protocols can vary. For more severe cases, patients will benefit initially from high visit frequency, getting acupuncture treatments 3-4 times for about two months. Then treatment frequency is reduced to once or twice weekly for 2-3 months.
For patients who suffer migraines that are less frequent, like those associated with hormone fluctuations, treatments twice weekly for 3 months is generally enough to correct the underlying imbalance.
While some patients respond to acupuncture for migraine headache as a stand-alone therapy, some patients will require supplementation, dietary changes and Chinese herbal medicine in order to restore the body to balance and prevent migraines. Chiropractic treatments can work synergistically with acupuncture to shorten treatment time for migraines.
Research has found a few supplements to be helpful for migraine prevention.
There is evidence in some studies that 5-hydroxytryptophan (an amino acid your body naturally makes that converts to serotonin) can reduce intensity and frequency of migraines.
Magnesium also shows evidence of reducing migraine frequency and intensity. People who suffer from migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than people who don’t suffer from migraines.
A few studies have shown that supplementation with Vitamin B2, aka riboflavin can also reduce migraines.
Chinese herbs are an important therapeutic support for migraine patients. While certain formulations have been therapeutically effective at treating migraines for centuries, researchers are finally starting to look at the mechanisms by which Chinese herbs work. Though herb research is very limited, increasing numbers of studies are being done. Dang gui, gingko and ginger have been researched and show evidence of efficacy.
Whether you have a long history of migraines or recent onset, acupuncture has proven to be effective as a treatment. If your quality of life is diminished due to migraine headaches, finding a sustainable, safe and effective solution is possible with acupuncture. Call today to schedule your appointment!