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Acupuncture for Migraines: Does It Work?

Migraines are a complex neurological condition. Because modern medicine does not fully comprehend migraines, the standard treatment is somewhat hit-or-miss. Utilizing drugs and other medications is one method for sufferers to find respite. Unfortunately, common medications do not address the underlying causes and can cause undesirable adverse effects when used for an extended period. 

When conventional medicine fails to alleviate migraine pain, many patients are anxious to explore alternative treatments, like acupuncture. Acupuncture involves penetrating specific areas of the body with a needle to alleviate discomfort. According to Chinese practice, there are 14 meridians along the body, and a disruption of energy along these meridians can result in discomfort or illness. 

Before scheduling a consultation with a specialist, people with migraine should consider the following information about migraines and acupuncture.

What Causes Migraines?

Migraine is characterized by recurrent attacks of moderate to severe pulsating and pulsing pain on one side of the head. Most migraines occur in the morning, particularly upon waking up. Some individuals experience migraines at predictable intervals, such as before menstruation or on weekends after a stressful week. After a migraine, many people feel fatigued or feeble, but between attacks, they are typically symptom-free.

It is believed that hormonal changes and nerve signalling affect brain blood vessels and the body’s pain response. When blood vessels in the brain dilate, more blood and oxygen travel to the brain and cause the release of prostaglandins, a compound that regulates pain and inflammation in the body. 

What Are Common Migraine Triggers?

Acupuncture targets specific pressure points on the body to relieve pain.

Many things can make you more likely to get a migraine. These things are different for each person and include:

  • Stress

Stress is a common migraine trigger because it can alter brain function, including the release of hormones and chemical mediators. The body generates more serotonin (the stress hormone) in response to tension. Since serotonin constricts blood vessels, fluctuating serotonin levels can cause migraines.

  • Certain foods

Cured meats, aged cheese, pickled foods, and chocolate contain additives and preservatives that can trigger migraine. Foods high in sodium can increase blood pressure and constrict blood vessels, both of which can trigger a migraine. 

  • Lack of sleep or a change in sleeping patterns

Sleep deprivation is a well-known trigger, as is excessive sleep (like sleeping in on the weekend). Similarly, shift work and jet lag can be triggers for certain individuals, suggesting that both sleep and the circadian timing system play a role.

Excessive drowsiness may be a component of the premonitory phase preceding a migraine attack or a symptom after the attack. 

  • Alcohol 

Alcohol contains the neurotransmitters histamine and ethanol, both of which are known migraine triggers. Histamine causes inflammation in the body, and ethanol is a diuretic (causing frequent urination), which affects blood pressure. 

  • Changes in weather

Changes in weather can also trigger a migraine. Changes in atmospheric pressure caused by hurricanes, “heavy” grey days, and high humidity have been linked to chemical brain changes that can irritate nerves and increase inflammation. 

How Does Acupuncture Help Migraines?

Acupuncture can relieve migraine attacks and symptoms.

Acupuncture can directly change your hormones and chemicals. It keeps the sympathetic nervous system in balance and helps the body make more endogenous opioids, which are natural painkillers.

  • Reduce inflammation

While migraines are not fully understood, the majority of medical professionals concur that all headaches involve an inflammatory response. Acupuncture stimulates the release of vascular and immune-mediating factors, which reduce inflammation.

  • Promote healthy blood circulation

When you experience discomfort, it is due to inadequate blood flow and decreased oxygen levels. This holds for migraines just as it does for other types of discomfort. Acupuncture brings more blood to the area being treated and makes endorphins come out. This increased blood flow helps the injured area heal by bringing oxygen and nutrients to it.

  • Reduce stress levels and encourage relaxation

Regulating hormone levels can reduce tension levels and promote relaxation. Cortisol, serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine are involved in how the body reacts to stress. When these hormones are in balance, your body will adjust to stress more effectively. 

  • Reduce serotonin levels

Serotonin is a chemical produced by the organism. Numerous scientists and neurologists believe serotonin may play a role in migraine onset. Because acupuncture can be used for preventative medicine, it can also help to maintain long-term serotonin balance. Consequently, you may experience fewer migraine attacks.

How Often Should You Get Acupuncture for Migraines?

The treatment takes about an hour, and patients are generally told to go through at least six sessions, normally once a week. The number of acupuncture treatments you’ll need depends on several factors such as:

    • physical makeup
    • medical history
    • the severity and frequency of your migraines
    • how your body responds to the treatment

As a starting point, we recommend once to twice weekly visits for four to six weeks, depending on your condition. For chronic migraines, it says that a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5 to 8 weeks can be considered.

Relieve Migraines With Acupuncture at Oriole Physiotherapy 

Depending on your general health and body type, changes can happen quickly or take a long time. Our acupuncturist will make a treatment plan for your migraine that will help you heal as much as possible. This could be one visit for a short-term problem or several visits for a long-term problem.

Make an appointment at Oriole Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation Centre for acupuncture in North York. Our skilled and experienced acupuncturists will listen to your specific needs and create a personalized treatment plan to help you get the best results. Make an appointment by calling 416-221-0772 and take the first step toward better health and fitness! If you need massage therapy or exercise in addition to your acupuncture sessions, you can book them at our North York centre.

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