If you suffer from the agony of migraine headaches, you’d probably try anything to make them stop. You may have had some success using medications to ease the pain from a migraine, but medications can have unpleasant side effects, and they won’t stop future migraines from coming. You have another option. Consider using acupuncture to treat your migraines.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing remedy. In acupuncture, thin needles are inserted under the patient’s skin to stimulate various reflex points in the body. When the reflex points are stimulated, the body goes to work to heal itself. To those who have heard about acupuncture but never tried it, the experience may sound painful. However, the needles used for acupuncture are extremely thin and have rounded tips, which eliminates the pain normally associated with skin penetration.
There are three basic styles of acupuncture practiced today. Traditional Chinese acupuncture uses deep insertion of somewhat thicker needles, which produce what’s known as a de-qi sensation, or a feeling of heaviness or numbness. Japanese style acupuncture uses thinner needles and shallower insertion. Some modern practitioners use a technique known as electro-acupuncture. In this, the needles carry a slight electrical charge to stimulate the reflex points.
Migraine headaches may be caused by changes in blood flow to and around the brain. When a person is stressed, blood flow is restricted. When that stress goes away, the blood vessels open back up for increased blood flow. This phenomenon leads many migraine sufferers to experience headaches, paradoxically, at the point when a major stressor goes away, such as on the weekend after a stressful week. These are known as rebound migraine headaches, and acupuncture may help eliminate future episodes of them.
Regular acupuncture can cause feelings of deep relaxation in a patient. This deep relaxation keeps a patient from feeling stressed. The lack of stress keeps the blood flow from becoming restricted, which then eliminates the rebound effect when blood flows normally again. Thus, regular acupuncture treatments may keep a migraine sufferer from experiencing future episodes of migraine.
In most cases, acupuncture works better as a treatment for migraine when performed between headache episodes as a method of preventing future attacks. It may not work as well to stop the pain of a present migraine headache. In fact, some people have reported an increase in pain when they try to use acupuncture during an attack. This may be because the deep relaxation brought on during acupuncture has increased the rebound effect. If you want to try acupuncture to relieve chronic migraines, it’s important to work with a practitioner on a regular basis and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. Occasional, periodic visits probably won’t produce the desired results.
Some acupuncture practitioners believe that the traditional Chinese, deeper insertion style of acupuncture is necessary for migraine relief. Others believe similar results can be achieved with the less-invasive Japanese style. Studies done of the question have led to conflicting results. In general, if you’ve never had acupuncture before and you’re nervous about it, you may want to start by trying Japanese style, which may be less overwhelming. However, if that doesn’t help relieve your migraines, don’t assume acupuncture won’t help without moving on to try the traditional Chinese style.
No matter what style of acupuncture you decide on, make sure to choose a practitioner who uses FDA-approved, disposable acupuncture needles.