Can Acupuncture Treat Migraines?
Updated: Jan 27
Ask someone who experiences migraines often and they will tell you just how painful and debilitating they can be. A growing number of Canadians have started using acupuncture to help treat the symptoms of migraines.
In fact, there have been several studies recently that have provided evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines. This post will explore those studies and help you determine if acupuncture is worth trying for your migraines.
How Common Are Migraines?
In 2010, an estimated 2.7 million Canadians reported living with prevalent migraines. Stats Canada said that number was likely severely underestimated because a lot of people who have migraines do not seek professional medical help.
Like everything else, COVID-19 only made the problem worse. A 2021 study found that almost half of Canadians who experience migraines reported them more frequently after the pandemic, likely attributed to stress and changes in routine.
What Is a Migraine?
According to the World Health Organization, a migraine is a neurological disorder that is caused by the activation of a mechanism in the brain that induces pain-producing substances around the nerves and blood vessels in your head.
Migraines can last hours or even days. They cause a range of symptoms that includes fatigue, mood changes, severe thirst or bloating directly before the migraine. During a migraine, people can experience everything from blurred vision and ringing in the ears to noticeable changes in taste and smell.
Migraines are more than just a headache — they cause intense pain and are often accompanied by a sensitivity to light. They can also include physical distress such as nausea. In fact, about 80% of migraine sufferers experience stomach nausea and about half of those people actually throw up.
Can Acupuncture Treat Migraines?
There are various ways to treat migraines that include over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin, and Tylenol. There are also several prescription drugs such as Sumatriptan and Rizatriptan that migraine sufferers have found beneficial to treat their head pain.
But surprisingly, there is a growing number of people that are trying to get away from pills and medication to treat their migraines. Acupuncture has some recent research that supports its effectiveness in treatment.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine where very thin needles are inserted into pressure points on your body. These needle points are usually near nerves in your body and cause the nerves to release hormones, such as endorphins, that trigger a response from your body.
Also Read: Treating Anxiety With Acupuncture
Studies Proving The Effectiveness of Acupuncture For Migraines
Researchers studied 249 people with a history of migraine headaches who received real acupuncture, fake acupuncture or nothing over the course of 24 weeks. By the end of the trial, the group who received real acupuncture had their migraines most reduced of the three groups.
In this study, 480 patients received three types of acupuncture including electrical acupuncture and fake acupuncture. After 16 weeks, all the real acupuncture groups reported large improvements in their migraine symptoms compared to the groups receiving fake acupuncture.
The Cochrane Systematic Review has reported acupuncture to be a beneficial treatment for chronic migraines to both lessen their frequency and intensity. They have also published evidence supporting the use of acupuncture over conventional drug therapies like topiramate.
Is Acupuncture Worth Trying For My Migraines?
If you are seeking a non-pharmaceutical treatment for your migraines, acupuncture is a worthwhile option to explore. While the evidence I listed above does show that acupuncture can help, ultimately everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for another. All you can do is try and see if it works for you.
I'm New To Acupuncture...
I’ve been performing acupuncture for many years now and have seen firsthand the life-changing benefits it can have for patients with severe headaches and migraines.
While acupuncture might seem like a completely foreign and strange concept now, I will walk you through every step of the treatment — so you fully understand what I am doing and feel 100% comfortable.