Acupuncture for migraines and headaches By Kate Macalister
The new Duchess of Sussex has talked enthusiastically in the past about her experience of having acupuncture, which rid her of migraines that were bad enough to hospitalise her at times (1). I thought it would be good to put a reminder out there that acupuncture can not only have good results with migraine and chronic headaches, but is endorsed in the NHS NICE guidelines (2) and by Migraine Action (3) as a treatment for this debilitating condition. Certainly, I have considerable empathy with sufferers, I had tension headaches and migraines regularly since childhood. However, it’s 18 years since my last attack, and 18 years since I started having acupuncture.
But I don’t expect you to just trust my and Meghan’s admittedly anecdotal evidence! To quote GP Online, “There is now a growing evidence base for the use of acupuncture in pain relief….studies have shown plausible mechanisms of action – acupuncture produces local effects (vasodilation, blood vessel proliferation and local nerve growth), effects at spinal cord level (enhancing descending inhibition in the spinal cord) and effects at hormone level (causing endorphin, adrenocorticotropic hormone or oxytocin release), all of which encourage pain relief and healing.” (4)
Whether your migraines are triggered by hormone changes, food intolerances, stress, bright lights, or other factors, acupuncture is well worth a try before resorting to medication. Unlike many medications, including those for migraine, the vast majority of side effects from acupuncture are short-lived, minor and transient, e.g. a small bruise left after needling. And unlike the delivery method for the newest migraine drug, Erenumab, (a hypodermic needle), acupuncture needles are as fine as a hair, and used with a guide tube that momentarily numbs the nerve endings by exerting pressure as the needle is inserted.
There’s been plenty of research into acupuncture to ease migraines, tension headaches and chronic headaches. The most recent summary of such research (in 2016) found that “the evidence from clinical trials and meta-analyses makes a compelling case in support of a potentially important role for acupuncture as part of a treatment plan for patients with migraine, tension-type headache, and several different types of chronic headache disorders” (5).
In the hands of the properly qualified, acupuncture is safe and has a very low incidence of serious side effects (1 in 10,000) (6). In addition, diagnosis and treatment is personalised and we always consider your health as a whole. Regardless of their reasons for starting acupuncture, the treatment “side effects” most commonly reported by my patients are that they’ve noticed they sleep better, feel more balanced emotionally, and have more energy as a result.
Acupuncture is available at The Wellbeing Clinic 6 days a week, so book online or ring 01865 751111 to make an appointment with either myself or one of my colleagues – we look forward to meeting you.
(1) The Chalkboard Magazine (2015), Living Well with Meghan Markle of the Tig, http://thechalkboardmag.com/living-well-with-meghan-markle-of-the-tig, accessed 20/06/18
(2) The Migraine Trust (2018), NICE Guidelines – Clinical practice guidelines for England and Wales, https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine/treatments/evidence-based-guidance/nice-guideline/, accessed 20/06/18
(3) Migraine Action (2018), Migraine Treatments and Therapies, http://www.migraine.org.uk/information/treatments-and-therapies/preventative-treatments/, accessed 20/06/18
(4) GP Online (2013), Acupuncture for Pain Relief, https://www.gponline.com/acupuncture-pain-relief/article/1180970, accessed 20/06/18 (5) Coeytaux RR, Befus D (2016), “Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment or Prevention of Migraine, Tension-Type Headache, or Chronic Headache Disorders”, Headache, Jul:56(7):1238-40 (6) British Acupuncture Council (2016), Is Acupuncture Safe?, https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-safety-of-acupuncture/is-acupuncture-safe.html, accessed 20/06/18