Can Acupuncture help with chronic migraine pain? The answer is yes, acupuncture is very effective at reducing migraine symptoms and also at preventing future attacks. Acupuncture is a gentle, safe, drug-free method for migraine relief.
Too many people suffering from chronic migraine pain are told that they need to “just get used to the pain” and accept suffering as part of their life. This does NOT need to be the case; migraines should not be preventing you from enjoying your time with friends and family. There are effective treatment options for migraine relief that result in improved quality of life with less pain. Living with more ease is absolutely possible.
Migraine headaches can be caused by many things and migraine symptoms can take on many forms. It's unfortunate that so many sufferers begin and end their treatment with over-the-counter or prescription medications like Excedrine Migraine or Sumatriptan and call it a day. This acute treatment is not full proof, and leaves migraines sufferers stressed and anxious because the pain is not resolved. There are alternative means of achieving migraine relief.
Evidence-based medicine for migraine relief
Clinical trials have shown that using acupuncture as a migraine treatment provides substantial relief from migraine symptoms. Acupuncture will reduce the severity of pain, duration, and frequency of migraines, and also improve mental health.
It is important to determine the root cause, triggers, and symptoms of the individuals migraine. As an acupuncturist, my job is to detect patterns and the cause of the pain. Fun fact: part of the diagnosis process is taking your pulse and looking at your tongue!
Symptoms of Migraines
Clinically, there are four stages in which the symptoms appear: prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome. Knowing these four stages, we are able to identify patterns of symptoms that are predictive indicators of an impending migraine. During each stage of the migraine, there are different migraine symptoms.
For example, women will report getting migraines while they're ovulating, and also experience neck stiffness, diarrhea and trouble sleeping. Many women also report they are on the birth control pill and get migraines as a PMS symptom.
Another example, is what’s knows as an Ocular Migraine. These migraines begin with flashing in the eyes and momentary vision loss, this is known as an aura. Other migraine symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, neck pain, throbbing pain, sinus pressure, food sensitivity, constipation, irritability, depression, and anxiety. After a migraine attack, you are often left feeling exhausted.
Acupuncture Treatment Plan
Migraine treatments using acupuncture vary widely, but here is an example of our uniquely tailored approach. We base it on how long you’ve been experiencing the migraines and severity of symptoms. We also use other techniques to further assess the patient as a whole being resulting in a treatment plan designed specifically for you and your particular presentation.
To give you an example, let's say you’ve been getting chronic migraines for 2 years, and on a scale of 1 to 10, the pain has consistently been a 7/10. The treatment plan would include two acupuncture treatments a week for two weeks. After two weeks, you would be re-evaluated based on current symptoms, and an updated treatment plan will be implemented. The goal is to reduce the frequency of acupuncture visits with improvement in pain levels. We will create a plan to prevent flare-ups in the future. This is a prescriptive approach to treatment and the effects are cumulative.
Lifestyle Tips to Manage Migraines
Acupuncture will surely help to alleviate ongoing symptoms of migraine headaches. To achieve true freedom from migraine pain we must also live with our wellness goals in mind. Daily preventative practices are key to maintaining lasting result.
A chronic migraine case: 40-year-old mother with full time job
After greeting my new patient from Southborough, I asked her, “what brings you in for today's acupuncture treatment?” Her response was, “I've been getting migraines every month since I had my son 3 years ago. I can't get them to go away. They’re debilitating and are interfering with my life. I decided it's time to try a different approach to get rid of these migraines. I can't keep taking this emergency migraine medication, Imitrex. It's not meant for daily use.”
She also noted how living with chronic migraine symptoms are really taking a toll on her mental health. She has a demanding full-time job and she also assumes primary parenting responsibilities for her son, attempts to get in her daily exercise, cook a healthy balanced dinner for her family, and also keep the house in order.
Female patient's symptoms and treatment plan
For this patient, her migraines happen during ovulation. They start with a feeling of pressure on the left side of her neck and crawl up the side of her head. By mid-afternoon she feels terrible and is nauseous and sensitive to light. As soon as she feels one coming on she takes an Imitrex, which more often than not does not provide adequate relief and she still has the migraine the following day, so she has to take another dose of Imitrex. Even with the second dose of medication, the migraine is still known to last up to 7 days. Its also worth noting that this medication is not intended for daily use.
Her goal is to find a safe intervention that is an alternative to taking medication, which also allows her to live a better, more comfortable life.
Our treatment plan looked like this: I recommended coming in twice a week for two weeks, which would then taper down to once a week for two weeks. Based on both our schedules, she came in twice the first week we met, Tuesday and Saturday. The following week we were only able to meet once, and the same for the following week. By the 4th week, which is when she was expecting to get a migraine, I saw her, and guess what, NO migraine developed while she was ovulating. Her treatment was successful and I was able to help this woman live a life free of migraine pain.
Reach out and contact us with questions
If you have questions about how to effectively and alternatively treat your migraines, please send me an email and I will be happy to discuss any and all possible options I have to offer through Silver Leaf Acupuncture.
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Recipes for your health, curated by Margo Voskanian, MAOM, Lic. Ac. Dipl. Om.