What is migraine?
Migraine is one of the most common neurological conditions in the developed world. It is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.
Migraine is more than just a headache. It can be a debilitating condition, which has a considerable impact on the quality of life of sufferers and their families. Attacks can be completely disabling, forcing the sufferer to abandon everyday activities for up to 3 days. Even in symptom-free periods, sufferers may live in fear of the next attack.
Stress, noise and food are among the triggers, which can initiate the onset of a migraine headache. Symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, extreme incapacitating pain, visual images such as flashes, and sensitivity to outside stimuli including light, sounds and smells.
Those who suffer from migraines tend to have a more sensitive central nervous system than normal. Migraines are a severe affliction disproportionately affecting women. And migraine “headaches” are much more intense than ordinary headaches, with pain that may be described as “hammering” or “pulsating”.
How can Acupuncture help if pain killers won’t?
At its onset, sufferers can take painkillers to relieve its effects, but this often only provides short-term relief and in some cases is completely ineffectual. In contrast to treatment with ordinary painkillers, acupuncture provides an effective and powerful method to ease migraines with minimal or no side effects.
By stimulating acupuncture points, the body prompts the nervous system to release endorphins (which are chemically related to morphine) and other natural chemicals that relieve pain. There is a concept in traditional Chinese medicine, which maintains that all types of pain, including the severe pain of migraine headaches, result from blood stagnation in the meridians. Acupuncture treatment can promote blood circulation, remove blood stagnation, and unblock meridians to relieve the symptoms. With increased cerebral circulation, the afflicted region obtains sufficient blood supply, oxygen and nutrition. Treating symptoms at the earliest possible opportunity increases the strength of positive results.
The majority of people with migraines seek acupuncture treatment after experimenting with other more conventional methods. While some people may feel immediate comfort from acupuncture, it usually takes four or five treatments to see a significant improvement. For initial treatment, the acupuncturist may advise one to two visits per week for a couple of weeks, then reduce it to once a week for two to three weeks, with follow-up treatments as needed. Herbal formulas are also used to treat the underlying causes of the attacks.
What causes migraine?
Migraine is believed to be caused by the release of a chemical called serotonin into the bloodstream from its storage sites in the body, resulting in changes in the neurotransmitters and blood vessels in the brain. Exactly what causes this to happen is still a subject for research and debate. However certain factors have been identified which can trigger attacks in susceptible people:
. Stress or sometimes the relief of stress
. Lack of food or infrequent meals
. Foods containing monosodium glutamate, caffeine and tyramine
. Certain specific foods like chocolate, citrus fruits, cheese
. Alcohol, especially red wine
. Overtiredness (physical or mental)
. Changes in sleep patterns
Acupuncture and migraine
Migraine headaches are caused by an imbalance in the body’s flow of energy. Acupuncture is used to re-establish this equilibrium, thereby treating the cause and the pain of migraine. Although acupuncture can ease the pain of an attack, this therapy is best used as a preventive treatment for migraine.
Before treating with acupuncture, you need to ascertain the location of the headache. Because the head is traversed by many meridians, the location of the headache determines which meridians are involved.
In addition, the acupuncturist will want to know what the pain is like, if it is associated with particular weather patterns, food intake, time of day, and so on. After determining this, the acupuncturist will be able to design a treatment program to restore the flow of chi to normal and prevent the recurrence of headache.
Has Acupuncture as a treatment been proven to be effective?
Acupuncture is shown to be effective in treating migraine headaches. The exact mechanism of action is not known. One theory suggests that acupuncture releases endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers. Another states acupuncture may stabilize levels of serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain. Research done has shown that after as few as 12 treatment sessions, patients experience fewer and less-severe migraine attacks