When you have a migraine, it can make even the simplest tasks impossible. The worst part: it can hit you at any time. Migraines can occur at any age, but patients typically experience more severe symptoms between the ages of 10 and 30 years old. Women tend to have more than men and their symptoms often correlate with their menstrual cycles.
During a migraine, patients can experience a variety of symptoms, most commonly including dizzy spells, blind spots, throbbing headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. If you suffer from migraines, you have the option to treat them with either conventional medicine or with more holistic methods. Acupuncture is an alternate, comprehensive approach to the treatment of migraines.
What is it all about?
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific points along the body to improve health and well-being. It originated in China more than 2,000 years ago and is based on the foundation of Oriental medicine: that there is a life energy flowing through the body called Qi (pronounced chee). Qi travels through the body on meridians, or channels, which connect all our major organs. According to Chinese medicine, illness arises when the cyclic flow of Qi becomes unbalanced. Acupuncture is meant to restore this balance of body and mind.
When receiving acupuncture treatment for migraines, the needles will generally be placed in a person’s arms, legs, shoulders, and sometimes even the big toes. An estimated 2 million adults in the US use acupuncture each year.
How does acupuncture work to treat migraines?
There are several theories about how acupuncture works to relieve pain caused by migraines, but one factor always rings true: acupuncture can offer powerful relief without the side effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause. Some people believe that it is not the technique of acupuncture that helps relieve pain, rather a patient’s belief in the effects of the process, also known as the placebo effect.
Another idea is based on the gateway theory, which states that the body can only experience so many sensations at once. According to this theory, when the body reaches sensory overload, it will simply reject some of the sensations. This claim is supported by the natural reaction of rubbing an injury to make the pain go away. By concentrating on the slight pain of the needle, your brain may reject the pain signals of a headache.
Aside from theories, there are compelling physiological reasons why acupuncture works for migraines:
- It stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, which relax the body and decrease painful sensations.
- It works to regulate pain centers of the brain. In one study, an MRI scan of the brain of a patient with pain from carpel tunnel syndrome showed that the acupuncture had changed the way the brain perceived pain.
- It relaxes the muscles. This breaks the cycle of tension and pain when you have a migraine. The muscles tense up in reaction to the pain, then the pain causes the muscles to tense up more.
- It calms the mind and encourages balance in your life, increasing your ability to deal with stress. Many people fall asleep during treatment while in deep relaxation.
Is there anything I should be afraid of?
If you have a fear of needles, acupuncture can sound like a nightmare rather than a relaxing treatment. We assure you that the needles used during treatment are never used twice and are hair-thin, sterile, and generally painless. They hurt much less than an injection or blood sampling because the point is smooth, not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle.
If you have any questions or concerns about the treatment, a consultation can be arranged to address them. Each acupuncture treatment is carefully customized based on the patient’s needs, so a fear of needles is a definite factor. Please call the CNY Healing Arts location that is nearest to you.
Syracuse – 315.671.5755
Rochester – 585.244.1280
Latham – 518.724.5750