~ MIGRAINE AWARENESS WEEK ~
Here's my local acupuncturist banging on about the benefits of acupuncture again but what does the research actually say about acupuncture and migraines?
Acupuncture helps migraines and beside me saying it and my patients who have benefitted saying it, there is wider evidence to prove this statement is true!
What the research says
Cochrane Systematic Reviews are considered to be the gold standard in terms of research - a bastion of reliability and trustworthiness. In 2016, they conducted a systematic review of trials investigating the effectiveness of acupuncture with migraines and concluded that:
"The available evidence suggests that adding acupuncture to symptomatic treatment of attacks reduces the frequency of headaches" (Linde et al. 2016).
The study found that if people have six days with migraine per month on average before starting treatment, this would be reduced to five days in people receiving only usual care three and a half days in those receiving acupuncture.
What is acupuncture actually doing to alleviate my symptoms?
Acupuncture affects the body in the following ways to alleviate symptoms: by providing pain relief, reducing inflammation and by affecting intracranial blood flow and serotonin levels.
If you are interested in the detailed pathophysiology, here it is:
Acupuncture can help in the treatment of migraine by:
Providing pain relief - by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurochumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Zhao 2008, Zijlstra 2003, Pomeranz, 1987)
Reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003).
Reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression (an electrical wave in the brain associated with migraine) and plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P (both implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine) (Shi 2010).
Modulating extracranial and intracranial blood flow (Park 2009).
Affecting serotonin (5-hydroxytriptamine) levels in the brain (Zhong 2007). (Serotonin may be linked to the initiation of migraines; 5-HT agonists (triptans) are used against acute attacks.)
Not all people are the same; not all headaches are the same
What’s really interesting is that unlike Western medicine, which incidentally I’m not bashing because I like to work together with your medical professional, Chinese Medicine treats each person as an individual with their own set of symptoms. In other words, not all headaches are the same.
Some people experience visual field disturbance, some people don’t. Some people’s migraines are triggered by stress, others aren’t. Some people feel stabbing pain behind one eye, others don’t. There is no one treatment that fits all in my clinic. Everyone brings their own set of symptoms and health history to the party.
If you are suffering from migraines that are interrupting your ability to enjoy life in the way you would like to, please get in touch. Quite often us acupuncturists are the last port of call when all other approaches have failed. Some patients have commented that they wished they hadn’t waited so long to give it a go.
If you feel unsure about acupuncture you may arrange to pop up for a no obligation chat to meet me, see my lovely clinic and I’ll explain my approach.
Message me for more information and to book yourself in. I've no doubt that you will love my riverside clinic surrounded by nature. My patients tell me they feel better just showing up!
Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA, Vickers A, White AR. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD001218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub3.
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash