A migraine is a complex condition. It tends to involve a painful headache usually accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms such as disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, feeling sick and vomiting.
An attack can last between 4-72 hours. Symptoms vary from person to person and each migraine can have different symptoms and duration.Book A Consultation
The pathophysiology of migraines is due in part to the sensory input from the trigeminal nerve and the ninth and tenth cranial nerves, humoral factors(eg blood glucose, foods, hormones) environmental factors (sleep, stress, smells, light and changes in barometric pressure), genetic and other factors.
Auras are caused by a localized decrease in blood flow immediately followed by an increase in blood flow. This wave affects the parieto-occipital cortex. This complex neurological symptom occurs just before a migraine attack in some people.
Migraines can have an enormous impact on work, home and social life.Book A Consultation
The most common migraines fall into two categories:
10% of all migraines are this type and have 2 or more of the following symptoms:
Remaining 90% have this type of migraine.
In both types, there is a recovery phase where sufferers have a hangover type feeling.
Acupuncture provides a drug-free treatment option for migraines.
Acupuncture is the insertion of tiny needles into specific points on the body. These points have an effect on dampening the interpretation of pain messages by the brain. It can also help relieve tension in muscles and has a positive effect on sleep and relaxation.
To learn more about the science behind acupuncture and migraines, click the button below.
A Cochrane review into three trials found that after three months of treatment headache frequency halved in 57 out of 100 people having acupuncture compared to 47 of those taking the other drug treatment.
After six months of treatment, headache frequency dropped by half in 59 out of 100 people compared to 52 in 100 of those taking drugs.
Clients receiving acupuncture noted fewer side effects than those taking medication. If in a month clients have six days of migraine, after having a course of acupuncture this halved to three days. This effect can last for six months.
There is some evidence stating that acupuncture can increase general coping mechanisms in relation to living life with migraines.
Jack is a 25-year-old teacher, married with one young son. He plays football twice a week and has a busy home life.
Jack has suffered from migraines for around 6 years and he believes that stress and tiredness are his main triggers. Jack suffers from aura migraines manifesting as tunnel vision for an hour before his headache begins. He usually has to sit in a darkened room until it subsides. His work is sympathetic but he is aware it is not ideal.
He has tried medication but found the side effects quite difficult. He would like to try acupuncture.
I asked Jack a series of questions around diet, stress, past medical history, injuries, digestion to ascertain his general lifestyle and health. He is generally fit and healthy. His dad suffered from migraines.
Jack had kindly agreed to share his headache record showing time of onset of migraine, duration and treatment and to continue to keep it whilst having acupuncture. He had been keeping a record for his own interest on an app on his phone for the past year.
I asked Jack to get comfy on my treatment couch and placed about eight tiny needles in various places on arms, legs and top of the head.
The needles stayed in place for 20 mins and he relaxed for a little while. He was amazed at how painless the process was.
One week later Jack was back for another session.
He reported sleeping really well the night after the previous session.
I again placed eight little needles in his arms, legs and head. The needles stayed in a little longer this session. We had a chat about his work and home life. He was up for a promotion which would see him working more hours with the added pressure of managing other staff.
Jack reported feeling more relaxed for a few days after the last session.
He has decided against taking his promotion choosing instead to do all he can to improve his quality of life and ease his migraines.
He is looking into yoga classes as another aid preferably in the late afternoon so he can still pick his son up from childcare or at least be home for dinner.
He has not had a migraine.
Needles were again placed in the slightly different areas of the back of neck and top of shoulders along with arms, legs and tops of feet.
I placed some ear seeds on points on his ear and showed him how to position them. The location is very precise. He has purchased more to keep in his wallet should he need them.. They can be brilliant if pressed at the onset of a migraine.
Jack had a migraine this week but was delighted to report that although he still had his aura that the migraine itself only lasted an hour. He raved about his ear seeds.
He feels more positive about being able to cope.
Jack has noticed more tension around his neck and top of shoulders since the last migraine so I will do some work there today and also do some head and ear points.
Jack again has had a migraine through the week but reports that the aura was shorter as was the migraine itself. He was able to put the ear seeds on himself and found them great. I have shown him some acupressure points he can use in between sessions.
He will return in two weeks.
Jack has not had any issues from the last session. He asked for a quick refresher on seed location and placement.
We have decided to leave a month between sessions. Jack knows if he has any problems in between sessions to just give me a ring. I can squeeze him in for a session sooner if necessary.
Jack has had no major problems in the interim.
He has had two migraines with aura but both were manageable and he could continue to work. He says they are mild attacks now. He had a look back over his diary and is amazed by the severity and frequency of migraines which were, unfortunately, a normal part of his life.
He will return in a month and we can reassess.
Usually, I will discontinue treatment when a client has had 2-3 months of reduced and manageable episodes. He always knows I am at the end of the phone if he needs some help.
Marie is 28 years old and 10 weeks pregnant. She has suffered from migraines without aura since she was 12 years old.
Since becoming pregnant she has had a migraine every 7-10 days. From beginning to recovery takes 2-3 days. She is unable to work and prefers not to take medication.
I asked a series of questions to better understand Marie’s diet, stress, medical conditions etc.
She had been keeping a record of her migraines since the start of her pregnancy. It is a useful record to have just to act as a comparison to any future improvements. If improvements are gradual it can be difficult to accurately remember how bad symptoms really were at one point.
She was anxious that acupuncture was suitable for pregnancy. I reassured her that I am both a trained nurse and have had additional, specialised training in acupuncture in pregnancy. I am also very experienced in having helped countless women over 17 years.
The initial treatment was carried out using my gentle needling technique. It may be gentle but it is very effective. Only 6 tiny needles were used, divided amongst arms, legs and top of the head.
I placed three ear seeds, which are tiny balls attached to sticky plaster, on various, specific acupoints on the ear. These remain on the ear and can be pressed at home to continue acupuncture’s effects and to help with symptoms in between acupuncture sessions.
She will return in a week.
Marie had noticed no improvement in her headache symptoms and was disappointed. She, however, did feel more relaxed after the session and slept well.
I reassured her that it can take up two or three sessions to start noticing any symptom improvement and pointed out that feeling relaxed and sleeping well was very positive.
Again I placed the needles and replaced the ear seeds.
Marie felt she had slept better for the few days after the last session and was more relaxed in general. She felt when she pressed her ear seeds at the start of her migraine that she had some pain relief. Her nausea reduced.
Marie again noticed improved sleep and more energy. Her migraines were still as frequent but reduced in time and intensity.
Her mood had improved. She feels she can cope much better with life in general than before starting acupuncture sessions.
Marie had no migraine for 2 weeks. Her head sometimes felt a bit sore but a full migraine never presented.
We started to space out sessions. Marie was informed that if migraines became a problem in between sessions to please give me a ring.
I showed her how to place her ear seeds and she bought a supply to keep at home.
Marie had no full-blown migraines since the last session. Again she felt a few times that a migraine was starting but it never took hold.
She will continue coming in once a month through her pregnancy and for three months post-delivery as the hormones again change.
I asked Susie a few questions about diet, lifestyle, menstrual history, stress etc.
She eats a lot of chocolate and drinks a lot of coffee. She socialises at the weekends and consumes alcohol.
She is a student nurse and is finding the course enjoyable but stressful. The placements can involve shift work.
Her periods are regular and so, unfortunately, are her migraines. They seem to appear one week before bleeding and last for a few hours with post migraine exhaustion for a day afterwards. She is unable to attend university for two or three days a month.
She has tried different medications which did not help as much as she hoped and she had quite a lot of troublesome side effects.
I explained the simple procedure and Susie lay relaxing on my treatment bed. I placed eight tiny needles in lower legs, top of head and ear and let Susie relax for 20 minutes. She said she felt a tingle around the needles and a lovely wave of relaxation.
Susie slept very well after the initial session and found herself relaxed the day after as well.
We are mid-cycle so I shall focus on some hormone points today. Again eight needles were placed in lower legs, arms and abdomen. I placed ear seeds before she left. These little balls stay on acupuncture points on the ear held in place with a little plaster. They can continue the work I do in between sessions.
Susie again felt relaxed and enjoyed improved sleep in between sessions. The effects lasted longer after a few sessions.
She has just had a migraine. She felt it was shorter and that her ear seeds helped ease a little of the pain. She is now quite hopeful that acupuncture will help control her migraines.
We have had a chat around her dietary changes. She has reduced her coffee with the intention of stopping and reduced her chocolate. She will try to reduce alcohol and drink more water.
Susie felt well in between sessions. Her anxiety is reducing and she is enjoying her nursing course much more.
Sessions were focused on balancing hormones and improving energy levels.
I showed Susie how to place the seeds and she bought some to use at home when she feels her warning aura coming on.
I gave her a personalised acupressure prescription and showed her where and how to stimulate the points in between sessions.
Susie has had a migraine but it was not as severe as normal and did not last as long. She feels pain and duration had reduced by 50%.
Sessions are being spaced out.
Susie has felt well in between sessions.
She has taken more of an interest in her diet and is eating regular healthy meals. She feels this is helping her energy and concentration.
Susie felt her migraine has now reduced by 75% in pain level and duration.
She will continue to come in monthly for three more months and hopefully can then be discharged.
Thank you for taking the time to read through these pages. I really hope you have found them informative and helpful.
If you have any questions or would like to book in for a session please get in touch. I am happy to help.