Migraine headaches disrupt the lives of millions of people. Sufferers are only too aware of the recurrent debilitating symptoms that can last for hours to days, from painful throbbing headaches to dizziness, nausea, vomiting and disturbance of vision. Research points to a variety of possible triggers for migraines, both external and internal. Diet, hormonal changes, stress, food sensitivities and certain types of weather can all be factors in setting off a migraine.

A scientific study conducted in Italy on the effectiveness of acupuncture versus drugs in treating migraines seems to back up my observations. One group of patients was treated with regular courses of acupuncture. Another group received drugs developed to control migraines. The study took place over a year and the results showed that acupuncture improved the symptoms twice as well as the drugs tested, based on criteria such as duration and severity of symptoms. On average, the patients receiving acupuncture reported an improvement in their migraine symptoms of over 80%.

Another advantage is that none of the patients in the Italian study reported any unwanted side effects from acupuncture treatment (this is borne out in my practice as well), whereas many migraine drugs list wide-ranging secondary effects from nausea to breathing difficulty.

Migraine medications are also extremely expensive, whether the cost is taken in charge by the health service or by the individual.

For such a widespread problem, migraines have remained frustratingly difficult to treat. Traditional pain relievers such as aspirin, paracetemol and ibuprofen do not alleviate migraine symptoms. Medications developed specifically to treat migraines have uneven results; they work for some people, sometimes, but patients report that their efficacity is variable. In addition, some migraine medications have the downside of unpleasant side effects.

In my practice

I treat many patients for migraines and my experience has been that acupuncture can dramatically reduce both the symptoms and the frequency of migraine attacks. I believe this is because acupuncture treats the underlying conditions that provoke migraines and rebalances the body’s system.

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