The Treatment of Migraine with Traditional Acupuncture

According to the World Health Organisation, migraine effects about 303million people worldwide. Conventional allopathic treatment in the UK costs around £20 million a year. Many of the medications prescribed on the NHS either do not work, or have only a minimal effect. Some of the stronger painkillers and drugs can have unpleasant side effects. An increasing number of migraine sufferers are so disenchanted with what is on offer conventionally that they are turning to alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, which are among a number of complementary and alternative therapies available, many of which are extremely effective. This article is about the use of traditional acupuncture in the treatment of migraine.

Migraine is a complicated condition, with a variety of different causes and symptoms. Typical symptoms include unilateral pain, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, visual and auditory disturbances, loss of energy etc. Migraine can have any number of triggers; typically foods such as cheese, chocolate, wine and spicy foods, and increasingly wheat and dairy products. Other factors like changes in the weather, computer screens, pollution and emotional stress and anxiety, and hormonal changes. Many kinds of migraine have no obvious cause, and there can be a sudden onset for no obvious reason, and often manifest in cluster headaches, with a variety of other symptoms.

As an Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist, migraines (and headaches) are one of the commonest conditions that I treat in the clinic. The success rate that I have is extremely good; in several cases I have seen amazingly dramatic improvements in just a few treatments. Such claims can be supported by a growing body of research based evidence, and clinical trails, that have been taking place as far back as the 1990s, that have strongly supported the efficacy of acupuncture, for the treatment of migraine. In one clinical trail 80% of the respondents reported considerable improvement after acupuncture.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we seek to treat the root cause of the condition, not just the symptoms. The reason why many sufferers find conventional medication ineffective is because complex internal energetic imbalances that precipitate the symptoms of migraine are not being addressed. Acupuncture and herbal medicine is a tried and tested method of helping to rebalance any imbalances naturally. A detailed case history is taken, which not only takes into account the presenting symptoms but also medication, past illness, general state of health, diet, stress, bodily functions, energy levels etc. We then examine the tongue and feel the radial pulses, which help the Practitioner to obtain a better assessment of the patient’s general constitution and any underlying problems that may contribute to the condition. Acupuncture is quick and relatively painless. During the actual treatment most people go into a deep state of relaxation. Many report that if they had a headache at the time of the treatment, it has gone when the needles are removed.

Acupuncture is a course of treatment, and the healing is a process, so it is important to commit to at least four to six sessions. Over the course of the weeks of treatment, we will be looking at diet, stress, lifestyle, addictions, habits etc and anything that can help improve and maintain health, in order to help prevent onset in the future.

I sometimes include Chinese herbs as part of the treatment. Sometimes they are an adjunct to acupuncture, or herbs constitute the main treatment. Herbal medicine is complicated, but can be very effective in helping to prevent recurrences of migraine.

For those interested in finding out more about how TCM can help you, or someone you know. I am available at the Hatton Garden Clinic on Mondays, and the Baldock Clinic on Wednesdays and some even by appointment.

Jethro Rowland Dip.Ac.MBAcC. Dip.CHM.MRCHM
Acupuncturist /Chinese Herbalist

For information on research see