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Tuesday, July 30, 2019 | By: NUHS Team

What You Need to Know About Acupuncture for Migraines


Migraine sufferers are increasingly turning to acupuncturists and other complementary and alternative medicine practitioners to find relief. In fact, research shows that acupuncture can also reduce the frequency of attacks. The American Migraine Foundation agrees with the conclusion that a course of at least six acupuncture sessions can be a valuable treatment option.

Migraines are a much more common neurological disease than one might think. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, they affect 39 million individuals in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide, making it the third most prevalent illness in the world.

What are Migraines?

According to the Mayo Clinic, migraines can cause a severe throbbing or pulsing sensation, usually only on one side of the head. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to both light and sound, and can be so severe that they last for hours or even days. The debilitating symptoms often lead to loss of work, school and enjoyment of life. Though migraine causes aren't fully understood, genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role. Some trigger factors that have been identified include:

  • Hormonal changes in women  
  • Foods and food additives such as aged cheeses, salty and processed foods, and aspartame sweetener
  • Stress
  • Changes in wake-sleep patterns

Why Patients Seek Holistic Migraine Treatment

When migraine prevention medications have failed to minimize the frequency and/or severity of symptoms, or have negative side effects, many patients become eager to explore complementary or alternative migraine treatments.

Acupuncture is one of the most commonly used and widely accepted of modern holistic migraine treatments. Why? There is evidence that acupuncture for migraines reduces the frequency of attacks — with effects that may be similar to that of migraine prevention medications. A systematic review of 22 clinical trials revealed that the frequency of migraines dropped by 50 percent or more in up to 59 percent of individuals receiving acupuncture.

Another study found that acupuncture is more effective than no acupuncture in the treatment of a migraine. An additional study showed that 11 acupuncture treatments over six weeks were at least as effective as a blood pressure drug commonly used as a migraine prevention medication taken daily for six months.

How Acupuncture for Migraines Works

National University of Health Sciences’ Interim Assistant Dean of the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program George G. Stretch, DN, DAOM, explains that acupuncture provides pain relief by releasing and activating the body’s own natural opioid substances, such as Endorphins and Enkephalins, and reduces inflammation.

“Acupuncture also decreases anxiety, stress and depression, which is related to all chronic migraine headaches,” Dr. Stretch noted. “It’s a very safe procedure as long as it is performed by licensed acupuncture practitioners as part of an integrative care plan,” he said, adding, “It’s much less invasive than other aggressive modalities and treatments, and has little or no side effects.”

When someone suffering from migraines is unable to find a treatment that works for them, it can be incredibly frustrating. Raising awareness of how acupuncture for migraines can be life changing can help them find the relief they need.

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