Migraines are not just headaches. They come with a vast array of possible symptoms that can make it hard to function in your daily life. They are also notoriously difficult to treat. Acupuncture treatment for migraines may be able to mitigate triggers or alleviate symptoms that prove resistant to other forms of medication or therapy, providing you with the opportunity to live a little more comfortably.

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a condition primarily associated with recurring and particularly severe headaches. They often involve an intense, pulsating pain but may also affect vision, make you sensitive to stimuli such as lights, noises or odors. They may also cause nausea and vomiting. Seeing so-called “auras” can be a warning sign that a migraine is approaching. It may then last anywhere from hours to days. We are not exactly sure what causes migraines or how they work, but genetic and environmental factors both appear to play a role. Treatments range from avoiding potential triggers to regular painkillers and more specific medication. Some people may just prefer to shut themselves in a dark room.

How does acupuncture treatment for migraines work?

Acupuncture involves the inserting of needles into certain pressure points around the body. When carried out by a professional, this is a safe process with minimal risk of harm. Pressure points are located along what are traditionally considered meridians, or channels along which the body’s qi (energy) can flow. Pain and illness are caused when the flow of this energy is blocked, acupuncture can be used to set it free again.

In the case of migraines, the principle is the same. Needles are inserted into the body, generally around the head and neck, to stop the pain and other symptoms. Sometimes a head massage or meditation may be included. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but relies just on physical pressure, rather than needles, at the pressure points. Sessions may last from five to ten weeks and can be conducted alongside other medical treatments.

Effects of acupuncture for migraine relief

The traditional idea of acupuncture in Chinese medicine involves the flow of energy. Modern practitioners often focus on the variety of physical effects instead. This includes shifting the body towards the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls our heart rate and breathing when at rest (as opposed to the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system). Acupuncture may stimulate blood flow and release pain-relieving endorphins. It may also relax you, from the physical tension in your muscles to the anxiety in your mind. Some of this will directly treat the symptoms of migraines, whilst other parts will alleviate triggers, such as insomnia or stress.

Acupuncture for migraine relief is not an absolute, guaranteed cure, but it may be able to alleviate pain and other symptoms when other regular forms of treatment have failed. Your nervous system, stress hormones and levels of muscle tension may all be impacted by acupuncture, which may clear your head and leave you feeling healthy and refreshed.