Migraines are not an easy condition to manage. They manifest slightly differently in every person, and while there are ways to mitigate the risk, whether through medication or lifestyle changes, there is no cure. Acupuncture is no more the magic bullet than the other methods, but many people find that it can alleviate pain and encourage relaxation, and it can be practiced alongside other therapies.

What is a migraine?

Most migraines are typically described as headaches, but they are more than just pain. They are often classified as a neurological disorder, and whilst a moderate to severe headache is the most notable feature, they are also associated with increased sensitivity to light and sound, feelings of nausea and a variable range of other symptoms. Migraines are probably caused by a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors.

What are the conventional treatments for migraine?

Treatment for migraines involves both prevention and management of symptoms. Many migraines have specific triggers, such as tiredness, alcohol, certain foods (such as chocolate or cheese), and reportedly even changes in the weather. They may occur more frequently when you are stressed. Avoiding triggers is one of the first steps in migraine prevention, so making sure you get enough sleep and adjusting your diet are important. Doing more exercise may reduce the risk of migraines occurring, but exercising while in the grip of a migraine may aggravate the symptoms.

There are some medications used in migraine treatment, such as over-the-counter painkillers and anti-nausea drugs to alleviate the pain and sickness, and others such as beta blockers to anti-depressants to try and reduce recurrence. Some people turn to magnesium supplements. Traditional alternative medicines used to treat migraines include butterbur and feverfew. Not all therapies are completely evidence-based, and it can take a lot of research to find a safe approach that is suitable for you. Not everyone will respond to every medication.

How does acupuncture treatment for migraine work?

Acupuncture has been used to treat different forms of headache for millennia. It may alleviate some of the stress that can be an underlying cause and encourages you to relax whilst your body’s healing systems are engaged. Your hormones recalibrate, with cortisol reduced while endorphins, which can create a happy buzz, increase. Acupuncture stimulates blood flow, including to the brain. It may also alleviate other symptoms, such as nausea, and improve your appetite.

Some people turn to acupuncture because they want to reduce their reliance on medication (always consult a doctor when adjusting a prescribed dose), or because other therapies are not working for them. There is nothing to stop you taking medication and receiving acupuncture at the same time. Similarly, other lifestyle changes, such as to diet and exercise, can also easily coexist with acupuncture. Acupuncture may even help you sleep and help you feel calmer and more focused, giving you back more control of your life.

No one is saying just give up on other forms of treatment, but acupuncture is not going to harm you, and it may actually help. The best way to manage migraines is to take a multi-pronged approach, and acupuncture treatment for migraine can easily be incorporated alongside medication and lifestyle changes.