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Unlocking Relief – Acupuncture for Migraine and Headaches

Everyone experiences headache pain from time to time – often enough, certainly, to understand just how debilitating and unpleasant it is.

Luckily, for most of us, headaches are infrequent and tend not to last for very long. But there is a significant number of people who suffer from persistent chronic headache pain and have resigned themselves to a life beset by it.

And then there are migraines – a condition that takes that pain and discomfort to a whole new level and reduces those who suffer with them to temporary exile of darkened rooms, painkillers, and – if they’re lucky – sleep.

Migraines and headaches can be crippling. They affect millions of people worldwide and pose a significant disruption to normal daily life.

While traditional treatments like medication offer relief for some, they aren’t always effective and there are increasing numbers of people who seek alternative therapies to manage their symptoms.

Among these alternatives, acupuncture stands out as a proven treatment option, with a growing body of evidence supporting its efficacy in alleviating migraine and headache pain.

Before we explore how acupuncture works and look at its potential benefits for those seeking relief from these debilitating conditions, it’s important to understand the difference between migraines and headaches.

Headaches vs Migraines

There are many different types of headaches, and identifying one from the other often comes down to identifying the location and nature of your pain. Some of the most common types include:

  • Tension headaches: This is the most common form of headache pain, which tends to spread across both sides of the head, often starting at the back and creeping forward. Typical causes of tension headaches include eyestrain, stress, and hunger
  • Sinus headaches: These often occur at times of ill health and are caused by swelling in the sinus passages, resulting in pain behind the cheeks, nose, and eyes. The pain is often as its worst when you wake up on the morning and when you bend forward.
  • Cluster headaches: These occur daily (usually at the same time) and sometimes up to several times per day for months. They are a result of dilation in the blood vessels of the brain due to a release of serotonin and histamines and can be caused by physical exertion, bright lights or even altitude.

When most people hear the term migraine, they often think of a severe headache. But headaches are only one symptom of migraines, and they can range in severity and length.

Symptoms are caused by a change in brain activity that affects blood in the brain and surrounding tissues. In addition to severe head pain, migraine sufferers may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue

While headaches usually have easily traceable causes, migraines have common triggers, but no one cause. Triggers vary from person to person and can include gender and hormonal shifts, allergies, genetics, environmental factors such as weather, stress, food, smells, and lack of sleep.

How can acupuncture help treat headaches and migraines?

Migraines and headaches are complex conditions with various triggers and contributing factors. Acupuncture offers a holistic approach to address these underlying causes, rather than merely masking symptoms.

Acupuncture may help by:

  • Relieving pain: Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which can help reduce headache and migraine intensity.
  • Reducing stress: Stress is a common trigger for migraines and tension headaches. Acupuncture promotes relaxation by regulating the nervous system, potentially reducing stress levels, and preventing headache episodes.
  • Improving blood circulation: By enhancing blood flow to the brain and neck muscles, acupuncture may help relieve tension and reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
  • Restoring hormonal balance: Hormonal fluctuations can trigger migraines in some individuals, particularly women. Acupuncture may help regulate hormonal levels, offering relief from hormone-related headaches.
  • Addressing other underlying imbalances: Traditional Chinese medicine views migraines and headaches as symptoms of underlying imbalances in the body. Acupuncture aims to correct these imbalances by restoring harmony to the body’s systems.

Research Supporting Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

Numerous studies have investigated the efficacy of acupuncture in treating migraines and headaches, with many showing promising results.

In 2016, meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction in the frequency of migraines compared to conventional medication.

Additionally, a review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic headaches, including tension-type headaches and migraines.

If you’d like to know more about how acupuncture can help you to manage headache and migraine pain, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.


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