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Acupuncture for Painful Migraines

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Migraines are an all-too-familiar condition, affecting millions of people across the globe. While medications and lifestyle adjustments can help soothe the pain, many sufferers are now turning to a more holistic approach, acupuncture. This ancient Chinese practice has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of conditions, and recent clinical studies have shown that it can be an effective treatment option for migraine sufferers. 

Acupuncture is a form of therapy that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body, known as acupoints, which stimulates the body’s natural healing processes.  

Before beginning acupuncture treatment for migraines, it is important to consult with an experienced acupuncturist. An acupuncturist will be able to assess your individual case and develop a personalized treatment plan that is tailored to address your specific needs. 

Different Types of Migraines

  • Chronic migraines: They affect an estimated 1 in 20 people and are more common in women than men. Chronic migraines can cause a variety of symptoms, including intense pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and difficulty concentrating. These headaches typically occur on both sides of the head and last anywhere from 4-72 hours.  
  • Migraine-associated vertigo: Migraine-associated vertigo is a type of vertigo that is associated with migraine headaches. It can cause severe dizziness, nausea, and balance issues. Migraine-associated vertigo may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound, photophobia, tinnitus, fatigue, and even visual disturbances. There are many potential causes for this condition including inner ear dysfunction and vascular problems. 
  • Migraine with aura: Migraine with aura is a type of migraine that causes physical and sensory symptoms in addition to headache pain. People who have migraines with aura experience a range of symptoms, including visual disturbances, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, and even difficulty speaking. One of the most common visual disturbances associated with this type of migraine is scintillating scotoma, which is characterized by the appearance of flickering dots or lines in your field of vision. This symptom typically lasts between five and 60 minutes before disappearing. 
  • Migraine without aura: Not all migraines involve auras — those without auras are referred to as “migraines without aura”. This type of migraine usually only affects one side of the head and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound or smells. Many people also experience a heightened sense of fatigue after the migraine has passed. 
  • Hemiplegic migraines: A hemiplegic migraine is a rare and severe form of migraine with aura. This type of migraine headache can cause temporary paralysis or numbness on one side of the body. Symptoms may include slurred speech, visual disturbances, confusion, and weakness in the arms and legs. The pain associated with this disorder can be severe and debilitating. 
  • Abdominal migraines: An abdominal migraine is a type of migraine that primarily affects the abdomen, causing recurrent episodes of abdominal pain. Research suggests that it is more common in children than adults, and it can cause a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and headaches. 
  • Menstrual migraine: Menstrual migraines are a type of headache that occur specifically during a woman’s menstrual cycle. They are usually more severe than other types of migraine headaches and can be accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound. 
  • Retinal migraine: A retinal migraine is a rare and debilitating form of headache that causes temporary vision loss in one eye. It is a type of migraine with aura, which is characterized by neurologic symptoms that usually precede headache pain. Besides visual disturbances, other symptoms of a retinal migraine include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, neck stiffness, and hearing disturbances such as ringing in the ears. 
  • Status migrainosus: Status migrainosus is a rare and particularly severe form of migraine headache that lasts for more than 72 hours and can be incredibly disabling. It is often accompanied by other disabling symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and sound sensitivity. If not treated promptly it can lead to further complications such as stroke or permanent vision loss. 
A woman suffering from a migraine and holding her head

The Benefits of Medical Acupuncture for Migraines

Medical acupuncture is a safe form of treatment with few side effects. It works by stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced in the body. Acupuncture can also help to reduce inflammation and regulate blood flow, both of which are known to be associated with migraine headaches. Studies have shown that acupuncture can provide relief from migraine symptoms in as little as 15 minutes. 

In comparison to traditional migraine treatments such as medications and conventional injections, medical acupuncture offers several advantages. For instance, it does not require taking any drugs or having invasive procedures; thus, eliminating the potential risk for drug-related side effects or allergic reactions. 

Medical acupuncture can also provide greater benefits such as a sense of relaxation and calmness that is often associated with migraine relief. This is because the needles used in medical acupuncture stimulate the nervous system, which releases endorphins, or “feel-good” hormones. Acupuncture may also reduce stress, as well as decrease muscle tension and inflammation, which are both known triggers for migraines. Furthermore, it can help to improve overall sleep quality and reduce fatigue associated with migraines. 

Using Acupuncture with Other Non-Surgical Treatments

Acupuncture is often used in conjunction with other non-surgical treatments to maximize its effectiveness. Those treatments include but are not limited to: 

  • Massage therapy: One of the most commonly used non-surgical treatments to pair with acupuncture is massage therapy. Massages can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and reduce stress. It may also be used in conjunction with medical acupuncture to help ease chronic pain or increase range of motion. Massages can provide relief from fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and other conditions that may be exacerbating symptoms. 
  • Chiropractic care: Another common treatment to use alongside medical acupuncture is chiropractic care. Chiropractic care focuses on adjusting the spine and joints in order to relieve tension and pain. By manipulating the spine and joints, chiropractors can restore range of motion and decrease inflammation which can lead to improved overall health. Many people find that pairing these two treatments together provides longer lasting and more effective relief than either one alone. 
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy is also a non-surgical treatment that can be used in conjunction with acupuncture. Physical therapists use various techniques to help strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and range of motion, and reduce pain. This type of treatment is particularly beneficial for those who have had surgery or experienced an injury since it can help them recover quicker and improve their overall health. 
  • Traditional Chinese herbal medicine: Herbal remedies are another holistic approach that can be used alongside acupuncture to help improve overall health and well-being. Herbal treatments, such as tinctures, teas, and essential oils, have been used for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments and may provide relief from pain, stress, fatigue, digestive issues, and more. Additionally, some herbs may have anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce inflammation in the body. 
  • Ozone therapy: Ozone therapy and acupuncture can complement each other and provide a more comprehensive approach to healing. Ozone therapy can enhance the body’s response to acupuncture by increasing blood flow and promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the treated areas. This can result in improved pain relief, reduced inflammation, and accelerated healing. 

“Amazing experience! Very friendly and professional staff. Acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy provide great relief.” – Angel A.  

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Common Questions About Acupuncture and Migraines

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to promote healing and alleviate pain. 

Yes, acupuncture has been found to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. By stimulating specific acupuncture points, it can help alleviate migraine symptoms and prevent future episodes. Many individuals have reported significant improvements in their migraines after undergoing regular acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture is generally considered to be a safe and well-tolerated treatment option for migraines. The needles used are extremely thin, and most people only experience a slight sensation upon insertion. Serious adverse effects are rare when performed by a trained and licensed acupuncturist. However, it is important to always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before undergoing any new treatment, including acupuncture.

The number of acupuncture sessions needed for migraine relief can vary depending on the individual. Some people may experience significant improvements after just a few sessions, while others may require ongoing treatments to maintain the benefits. It is important to work closely with your acupuncturist to develop a personalized treatment plan that takes into account the severity and frequency of your migraines.

Acupuncture is generally well-tolerated, and the potential side effects are minimal. Some individuals may experience slight bruising or bleeding at the needle insertion sites, but this is rare. It is also possible to feel temporary soreness or tingling sensations after a session, but these symptoms typically subside quickly. Overall, acupuncture is a safe and non-invasive treatment option for migraines.

First, you will meet with the acupuncturist and go over your medical history and lifestyle. Then you can expect to begin acupuncture treatments. It’s important to openly communicate with the acupuncturist before, during, and after treatments. 

Medical Acupuncture with Family Integrative Medicine

Family Integrative Medicine offers a variety of non-surgical treatments that can yield amazing results for your specific condition and overall health.  

Whether you’re looking to alleviate migraine pain or lead a more active lifestyle, give Family Integrative Medicine a call today at 407.751.2192. Our team of holistic medical professionals would love to get to the root of your condition.  

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