January 18, 2016

Acupuncture for the Treatment of Migraines

Acupuncture for the treatment of migraines has been well researched and the results are very clear: acupuncture is a highly effective treatment for migraines.

The British Acupuncture Council has reviewed research into the use of acupuncture for migraines. They have found:

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)
  • woman_headache_570
    Acupuncture can relieve the pain of migraines and decrease their frequency.

    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.)

Here is a sampling of other research:

  • Acupuncture was at least as effective as, or possibly more effective than, drug treatment and had fewer adverse effects–Linde K et al. Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009 Issue 1.
  • In a review of 31 comparative trials of acupuncture for treatment of chronic headache, including migraine, tension-type headache or both, acupuncture was found to be more effective than medication in improving headache intensity, frequency, and response rate. Sun Y, Gan TJ. Acupuncture for the management of chronic headache: a systematic review Anesth Analg 2008;107:2038-47.
  • The effectiveness of acupuncture in addition to routine care in 3,182 patients with migraine and/or tension headache was compared with routine care alone. After 3 months, the number of days with headache had decreased more in the acupuncture group. The acupuncture group also had decreased intensity of pain and quality of life improvements. Jena S et al. Acupuncture in patients with headache. Cephalalgia 2008;28:969-79.

For more on the use of Chinese Medicine and acupuncture to treat pain:

Acupuncture Lessens Pain

Pain Management Research

Knee Pain

If you suffer from migraines or other headaches, acupuncture may help you, too. Jeffrey Russell, MS, DOM, practices  Chinese Medicine and acupuncture in Louisville, KY. You can reach him at his clinic, Abacus Chinese Medicine, 502 299-8900.