Alternative Treatments

Acupuncture

ACUPUNCTURE FOR MIGRAINES

Acupuncture is believed to have originated from China, dating back to as early as 6000 BCE. The practice is based on the belief that we possess a life energy that flows throughout our body. This energy flow takes place within channels called meridians that connect all of our major organs. Throughout these meridians, there are specific points, sometimes referred to as ‘acupoints’, which can influence the flow of this energy. When energy flow blockages occur, the body is believed to be susceptible to pain and illness.

Acupuncture works to restore energy flow by stimulating specific acupoints (associated with the blockages) using ultra-fine needles that are inserted just beyond the surface of the skin and gently manipulated to create a desired effect.

HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?

When tiny needles are inserted at acupoints, a chain reaction occurs within the body. First, sensory receptors are excited, which leads to the stimulation of nerves that convey impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system, which is located at the base of the brain. The hypothalamus-pituitary glands located within this system are responsible for emitting neurotransmitters and endorphins (the body’s natural pain-fighting hormone).

Overall, acupuncture has the following affects:
• Decreased inflammation
• Release of tension in the body
• Increased circulation
• Pain relief
• Regulates serotonin levels

All of which, are contributors to migraine pain.

HOW IS ACUPUNCTURE USED FOR MIGRAINES?

Acupuncture is used in two different ways for the treatment of migraines.
For care during a migraine attack: In this approach, the goal is to minimize activity of the blood vessels in the head and neck (so as not to progress migraine symptoms). To achieve this, acupoints are only stimulated in the arms and legs and patients are usually placed in a sitting position, rather than the traditional laying down position for greater blood vessel control in the head. More studies are required of this treatment to determine it’s true value.
As a preventative therapy: Stress and tension can contribute to the onset of a migraine episode. As a preventative, acupuncture targets specific acupoints to restore balance in the central nervous system, which controls how the body deals with stress and can influence the onset of a migraine attack. Many studies support the success of this treatment approach.

ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS OF ACUPUNCTURE?

The side effects of acupuncture therapy are minimal compared to other forms of migraine treatment and may include:

  • Soreness, bleeding or bruising near needle insertion sites.
  • Injury to internal organs (If needles are inserted too deeply).
  • The development of an infection at insertion sites.
  • The sensation of heaviness, tingling or numbness.

AM I A CANDIDATE FOR ACUPUNCTURE THERAPY?

Am I a Candidate for Acupuncture Therapy?
Acupuncture therapy isn’t for everyone. Migraine sufferers with certain pre-existing conditions like blood related disorders are not suitable candidates for this treatment. Additionally, acupuncture therapy may use mild electrical pulses in addition to the needles to further induce stimulation. These electrical pulses can interfere with pacemakers or other surgically implanted mechanical devices.

Talk to your doctor about acupuncture therapy for migraine treatment. They are most familiar with your medical history and will be able to help determine if this method could be helpful for you. If you decide to move forward with acupuncture, only schedule with a licensed and experienced acupuncturist. Failure to do so could increase your risk for infection, transmitted diseases and other serious side effects.

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