There are many different types of migraines and just as many types of treatments ranging from over-the-counter medication, prescription pain relievers, or even Botox. Migraines affect approximately 18% of women and 5% of men in the United States. They can be debilitating and affect quality of life.
Unfortunately, many of the common treatments were not designed for preventing migraine attacks. This is where acupuncture can be an invaluable treatment option.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to migraines
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) systematically looks at the body as a whole. An acupuncturist considers every symptom and categorizes symptoms into a pattern, commonly known as the TCM Diagnostic Pattern.
According to TCM, migraines can be caused by a number of different types of patterns. These can include:
- Stagnation – where there is a blockage of the smooth flow of energy
- Deficiency – where the body is deficient in Qi, blood, or yin
- Excess – where excess yang energy rises to the head
Migraines can be caused by one or more of these patterns. It is up to your highly trained acupuncturist to determine what your best course of treatment should be.
Meta-analysis of Migraine Studies
A meta-analysis, published in 2009, looked at 22 trials with 4419 subjects addressing the effectiveness of acupuncture for migraine prevention. Six trials showed that after 3-4 months, acupuncture was superior to basic acute care. Fourteen trials compared “true” to “sham” acupuncture. The pooled analysis failed to demonstrate a statistically significant superiority of true acupuncture, but both groups showed fewer headaches than before treatment. Four trials compared acupuncture to a proven migraine preventive medication. The group using the prophylactic drugs were shown to have more adverse effects than the acupuncture group.
The conclusion from the Abstract of this meta-analysis states:
Acupuncture seems to be at least as effective as conventional drug preventative therapy for migraine and is safe, long lasting, and cost-effective. It is a complex intervention that may prompt lifestyle changes that could be valuable in patients' recovery.
Da Silva, A. N. (2015), Acupuncture for Migraine Prevention. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 55: 470–473. doi: 10.1111/head.12525 https://doi.org/10.1111/head.12525