Acupuncture For Migraines And Headaches

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Acupuncture for Migraine treatment

Does the pain in your head make it very difficult for you to concentrate on your work? Dealing with chronic headaches or migraines can be a very difficult situation, especially when you found out that there are rarely simple solutions available for treating them. 

Migraine is a complex and multifactorial headache disorder that affects approximately 15-18% of women and about 5% of men worldwide. Migraine affects people at the age of 15 – 24 years and is found to be prevalent among the age group of 35-45 years. Migraine is a chronic and most common neurovascular disorder characterized by recurrent headaches that may range from moderate to severe. The pain is usually pulsating and it affects one side of the head. Migraine pain can cause nausea; vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Stress, light, and sound are found to be the triggering factors for migraines.

The exact etiology behind the pain caused by migraine is still unknown and this is the reason that till this date there are no medications specifically designed for treating or decreasing the number of migraine attacks. Lack of conventional medication to help treat migraine effectively has given a boost to alternative therapies such as Acupuncture for possible treatment of migraine and headaches.

Does Acupuncture relieve migraine and headaches?

How it works

Acupuncture is supposed to maintain the energy flow (known as”qi”) balanced across the meridians. An acupuncturist will put needles at specific pressure points, usually along someone’s neck or back, where they can slow pain transmission. From time to time, a gentle head massage accompanies the position of the needles. The treatment takes about one hour, and patients are counseled to undergo at least six sessions, usually once per week. The acupuncturist may also indicate dietary changes. As an example, caffeine can exacerbate migraine, and a few acupuncturists think it disrupts the flow of the body.

It’s not entirely clear how acupuncture eases pain or reduces migraines. The overarching belief is that it activates pathways in the brain which are responsible for turning off the pain.

Acupuncture can help provide relief for migraine pain by removing the negative energy from the body. It is a technique that involves inserting a series of sterile, very thin needles at specific zones and migraine pressure points which are usually found near the nerves in your body. These needles help release the pressure and congestion near the nerves and thus stimulate the nerves to release hormones like endorphins. These hormones, in turn, promote good circulation, boosts the immune system and help relieve the pain during migraine and headaches.

Research on Acupuncture treatment of migraine

Is there any science and research done to showcase the efficacy of Acupuncture treatment of migraine?

In a research study called The Long-term Effect of Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis: A Randomized Clinical Trial.[1] A total of 249 participants with an age group between 18 to 65 years old were enrolled. The trial included a comparison between three group’s true acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and waitlist control. Electro-acupuncture was delivered to both the true and sham acupuncture groups for 5 days a week for 4 weeks. The results showed 67% improvement in migraine frequency after 16 weeks post-randomization in the true acupuncture group, while there was a 42% improvement in the Sham acupuncture group. The frequency of attack in the true acupuncture group significantly decreased when compared to the sham acupuncture group and waiting-list group. The study also concluded that the electro-acupuncture technique may be effective and superior to manual acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis.

In another research study named Efficacy of acupuncture for the prophylaxis of migraine: a multi-center randomized controlled clinical trial[2]. Out of 1295 patients with migraine 794 patients were intended to treat by dividing them into 443 patients per treatment group. The groups were divided into verum acupuncture group, sham, and standard therapy group. The results showed a 47% reduction in migraine attacks found in verum acupuncture group followed by 39% in the sham acupuncture group and a 40% reduction in the standard group. Treatment outcomes reported in this study for migraine attacks are quite similar in patients treated with sham acupuncture, verum acupuncture or standard therapy.

According to a study published in Acupuncture may be effective for migraine which  included almost 500 adults with migraine who were divided into two groups and treated However, the patients didn’t know which treatment they were receiving during the four-week study  [3]. After 4 weeks of treatment, the participants reported a significant decrease in their frequency, intensity, and duration of migraine attacks.

Case studies for Acupuncture healing of migraine

Are there any success stories from real patients who got benefit from Acupuncture for migraine?

Acupuncture for Headache: Possible Clinical Improvements—Analysis of Two Typical Case Reports [4].

A 32-year-old and a 52 year old female suffering from chronic headaches were treated by manual acupuncture technique.

1. A 32-year-old woman with persistent headaches for 8 months along with stiffness and discomfort in her neck volunteered herself for acupressure for headache after finding no relief from modern and conventional treatments. During acupuncture therapy, the needles were inserted in the identified areas which were found to be very stiff and rigid. She underwent four sessions of acupuncture after that she reported feeling no headache following the treatment.


2. A 52-year-old Caucasian female with a chief complaint of frequent headaches, muscle spasms, and tissue rigidity took acupuncture therapy to find relief from the symptoms. After two sessions of acupuncture therapy, she reported that her headache was completely gone after the second session.


3. A Single Case Study: Treating Migraine Headache with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, and Diet [5]. A 32-year-old woman, who was presented with a 10-year history of migraine wanted to try acupuncture for headache therapy. The patient did  Acupuncture therapy for around 2 months along with Chinese herbal medicine and Dietary modifications. After the completion of the treatment, the patient experienced relief from migraine pain that resulted in several months without any migraine.

Summary and outcomes

Quite a few scientific studies have proved that acupuncture therapy has been found to be more effective in treating pain caused by migraine when compared to preventive migraine pharmaceuticals.  The clinical effectiveness of acupuncture can dramatically treat different types of headache playing an essential part in migraine management. Acupuncture provides long-lasting effects and helps reduce days suffering from migraine. It has also been found that Acupuncture along with Dietary modifications and Chinese herbal medicine can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. Acupuncture for migraine relief and its management needs more research on a larger population to understand the role and its effectiveness in treating the pain caused by migraine.


More research is needed to investigate the role of Oriental medicine and Chinese herbal enemas in treating various migraine and chronic pain conditions.


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