In a meta review study of large and well-designed trials for migraine prevention with acupuncture and comparisons of acupuncture versus drug therapies published this week in the journal “Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain”, researchers have stated that “acupuncture seems to be at least as effective as conventional drug prevention therapy for migraine and is safe, long lasting, and cost effective.” Migraine headaches affect a small percentage of the population, but their effects can be devastating. Often the episodes begin with a slight headache, often at the back of the head, and then progress to extreme pain, nausea, light and sound sensitivity and can last for days. Some people also experience visual disturbances or aura which can make driving, reading, and detail work hard or impossible while they are being effected.
The authors of the study stated that their review was prompted by the fact that there are currently no pharmaceutical medications aimed at preventing and reducing the frequency of migraine headaches and so they began to look to different treatment methods which may be valuable such as acupuncture.
Migraine are a complex problem and can be brought on by a number of different things and while they can feel similar to a headache, their cause can be very different. Often times a normal headache is caused by constriction of blood vessels in the brain causing a slowing of blood circulation and increased pressure in the veins and capillaries that produces a painful sensation. Migraines can be thought of in the opposite way, the capillaries and veins are flooded with too much blood, which again results in increased blood vessel pressure and pain. Other types of migraine, such as visual migraines which are accompanied by what some describe as a circular rainbow in the center of one’s visual field are caused by a spasm of the blood vessels that overlay the optic nerves in the brain. Because the reason for headaches is different than migraine, often the things that can normally help a headache, such as over the counter pain medicine or caffeine will have little to no effect on a full migraine.
In Chinese medicine there can be several causes for migraines including high stress levels without a good outlet, poor diet, chronic illness or trauma from falls, injuries, or car accidents. Because Chinese medicine always seeks to find the root cause of an illness so that it can be stopped at the source, a thorough intake is necessary to see what things in a person’s life may be causing the migraines to occur. Once a root cause is located, acupuncture, herbal medicines and lifestyle and dietary therapy can be used to correct the problem. The authors of the study stated that acupuncture “…is a complex intervention that may prompt lifestyle changes that could be valuable in a patient’s recovery.” This is very true, often times lifestyle can get you into health problems, but a change in lifestyle can also get you out of some health problems. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be a good support to help you on the way to a healthier lifestyle.
I have personally found acupuncture and herbal medicine to be effective for my patients in both preventing future migraines and being able to greatly reduce their intensity if they do come on.
If you have any questions about migraines and acupuncture and herbal medicine and whether it may help you or if you have any other questions about a health issue or Chinese medicine in general, please feel free to call or email me, I would love to speak with you!
Source: Da Silva AN, “Acupuncture for Migraine Prevention”, Headache. 2015 Feb 16. Doi:10.1111/head. 12525. [Epub ahead of print]