Migraine Headache

Treating Migraine By Accupuncture

For most people in the west, the entire concept of willingly sticking needles into your body is a bit suspect. In fact, most people probably have to reach a certain point of no return to even consider the very idea of acupuncture. Unfortunately, most migraine sufferers will no doubt reach that point of return at some point. Migraines headache pain can be unbearable to the point of excruciating and almost anyone who has ever suffered more than one migraine has reached a level of pain at which they would welcome a little pinprick if it meant a cessation of their migraine agony.

But does acupuncture actually relieve migraine symptoms? Although several studies have concluded that acupuncture is an effective migraine prevention strategy, nothing conclusive has yet been determined, though much research is available to suggest that it is effective for managing mild to moderate migraine attacks. How acupuncture treatment typically works is by inserting fine needles specific points on the body, which are then gently manipulated with the needles.

This supposedly increases blood flow in the tissues. This blood flow is called the axon reflex. It works by dilating the blood vessels around the needle area, allowing for an increase circulation where blood flow had previously been poor. This process is called stagnation and is considered to be a very good response for most chronic conditions for which one would seek acupuncture treatment, including migraine prevention.

This is not the only method of using acupuncture to treat migraines, however. Because the pain experienced during a migraine is associated with the dilation of cranial blood vessels, prompting the reaction described above by inserting needles into the head and neck might not be the best thing to do during a migraine episode. In fact, it could worsen the pain and bring on nausea. For that reason, some acupuncture practitioners try to reduce the amount of movement in the blood vessels in the head and neck during a migraine attack by restricting the acupuncture points to those on the arms and legs.

To avoid unnecessary dilation of the cranial vessels, therefore, the head and neck areas are rarely stimulated. In addition, rather than treating the patient in a prone position as would normally be done, this method of treatment is usually done with the patient sitting up because the blood vessels are can be better controlled when in a sitting position. This greatly reduces the possibility of undesired dilation of the blood vessels following acupuncture. Under some circumstances, a high frequency electrical current is sometimes connected to the acupuncture needles in order to help with constricting of vessels.

Of course, like most other treatments for migraine pain, acupuncture doesn’t come without its own side effects. Unfortunately, when it comes to acupuncture, it’s less a question of side effects and more a question of side injuries. Unlike the most common side effects of medication—nausea, vomiting, swelling, hives—when acupuncture goes bad it can be life threatening. The most common serious injury associated with acupuncture involves the accidental puncture of the lung, which often results in a partial collapse of the lung. In addition, one should also be aware of the dangers of infection.

The most common infection associated with acupuncture treatments is viral hepatitis, which can potentially develop into a serious infection of the liver. Other possible side effects include bacterial infections developing locally at the site of needle insertion in the skin and elsewhere in the body. Generally, side effects seem to relate to poor hygiene and training of the acupuncturist so make sure you see some qualifications of your acupuncturist and get some recommendations beforehand if possible.

Throwing a money wrench into the whole idea, unfortunately, was a report sponsored by the Journal of the American Medical Association that claimed to find no available evidenced supporting the contention that acupuncture possesses any effectiveness in treating migraines. Until other studies conclusively reach the same opinion, however, the decision on whether to seek treatment by sticking needles into your body remains between you and your pain threshold.