Headaches and Migraines

Acupuncture is now known to be an effective treatment for headaches and migraines. It has been endorsed by the British Medical Association as an effective treatment for headache and migraine.

There have now been many controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine, with some large, high-quality ones in recent years. The results of the latest reviews are quite consistent: acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment/basic care for managing  migraine, and appears to be at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy, with few contraindications or unpleasant side effects (Linde 2009, Wang 2008, Sun 2008, Scott 2008).

Acupuncture has been found to be cost-effective (Witt 2008; Wonderling 2004). As well as prevention it may also be used to alleviate symptoms in acute attacks (Li 2009). There is preliminary qualitative evidence from patients that acupuncture can increase coping mechanisms as well as relieve migraine symptoms (Rutberg 2009).

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.)

Aside from evidence gained from clinical trials, the best way to see if Acupuncture will work for you is to have a course of treatment. If you are unsure and have questions, feel free to come for a free 15 minute consultation to meet me and discuss treatment.

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