Do you live with migraines or know someone who does? Have you tried medications and still experience migraines? Do you find yourself wishing for a treatment option that would not only prevent migraines and keep them at bay without the side effects of medications?
In this article, we will be exploring the natural and holistic treatment option of acupuncture for migraines, how it works, how many treatment sessions and frequency may be needed, and how acupuncture can impact different types of migraines.
Acupuncture for Migraines
Acupuncture for migraines has been through different studies that have been shown to be helpful in treating migraines. One of the best ways to combat migraines is prevention. Medications are taken to reduce and minimize the intensity of migraine symptoms. Medications, however, do not always have the ability to prevent migraines — and those that do can cause adverse reactions or side effects.
This is where the natural and holistic treatment option of acupuncture starts to come into play. Acupuncture treatment for migraines does not come with the same adverse side effect of medication like nausea.
But wait, is acupuncture effective for migraines?
Can Acupuncture Cure Migraines?
Many people want to know, is acupuncture effective for migraines? And, others want to know, can acupuncture cure migraines? In essence, yes, acupuncture can be very effective in preventing and treating migraines. But, no acupuncture cannot cure migraines. Acupuncture cannot be seen as a miracle treatment option, but it should be seen as a very viable option as a holistic option for treating and managing migraines overtime.
3 Reasons to Consider Acupuncture for Migraines
This one study examined the role of acupuncture in migraine treatment and found:
Acupuncture treatment has a greater impact on migraine reduction compared to the use of no acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture is as equivalent to medication treatment.
Acupuncture may be safer as it comes with no known or documented adverse side effects compared to medication treatment.
Success rates for acupuncture for migraines are subjective to the study and controlled trial being examined. Each will provide different information. One way to explore and to get an idea of the success rate you have to consider the comparison of medication treatment of migraines compared to acupuncture.
Acupuncture vs Medication
This one study compared medical and medication treatment of both migraines and tension headaches to acupuncture treatments. The study had 48 participants, and the participants either received three months of treatments in either acupuncture or medications. This is what was found:
29 of the participants: Changed from one form of treatment and preferred acupuncture.
24 of the participants: Improved their migraine symptoms and intensity levels using acupuncture.
9 of the participants: Experienced improvements in their migraines through medication treatment.
Using a scale to document improvement, acupuncture participants surveyed and marked their improvement as a ‘9.’ Whereas, the participants using medication treatment marked their improvement as a ‘3’ on the survey.
3 Types of Migraines Acupuncture can Work For
There are many types of migraines. Here are three types of migraines that can benefit from the use of acupuncture as a treatment option:
Acupuncture Points for Migraines
Often times, people think that acupuncture points for headaches are the same no matter what, but that is not true. The traditional sense of Chinese medicine, acupuncture is individual and differentiated to each individual. However, that does not mean that there are not general guidelines or recommendations for the best acupuncture points for migraines.
Does Acupuncture Work for Chronic Migraines?
This one study on chronic migraines explored the impact of chronic migraines and the acupuncture points that were documented as being useful and effective in treating chronic migraines:
Bilateral GB13 (Benshen)
Bilateral GB8 (Shuaigu)
Bilateral GB20 (Fengchi)
The study also found that the following acupuncture points and meridians may also be beneficial for both chronic and other types of migraines:
Shaoyang headache (TE-GB): TE5 (Waiguan) and GB34 (Yanglingquan)
Yangming headache (LI-ST): LI4 (Hegu) and ST44 (Neiting)
Taiyang headache (SI-BL): BL60 (Kunlun) and SI3 (Houxi)
Jueyin headache (PC-LR): LR3 (Taichong) and GB40 (Qiuxu)
3 Types of Acupuncture to Help with Migraines
There are three types of acupuncture to choose from to help with migraines:
Benefits of Acupuncture for Migraines
There are many benefits of acupuncture in general. However, when it comes to migraines, there are three benefits that are unique:
Acupuncture not only can treat but also can help act as a preventative measure for migraines.
Acupuncture, as it treats migraines, it can also help a person relax — leading to a possible reduction in stress.
Acupuncture does not come with the same side effects or risks as medication.
How Many Acupuncture Treatments are Needed for Migraines?
There is no fast rule for the number of acupuncture treatments that are needed for migraines. An example of what has been documented in regard to the number of sessions is this one study that was conducted in Germany. The study found:
Number of acupuncture sessions: 11
Equivalency: The 11 acupuncture sessions were found to be equivalent to taking beta-blockers for six months on a daily basis.
How Frequently do I need Acupuncture Treatments?
The frequency that you will need to make and go to acupuncture treatments will be individual and variant to your needs. You may find that weekly acupuncture appointment, or bi-weekly appointments keep your migraines at a distance. Each person is different.
The German study above was conducted over the course of six weeks. With a recommended 11 sessions by the study, it comes to roughly two acupuncture sessions a week to potentially achieve similar results as the German study.
5 Step Process for Frequency of Acupuncture Treatments
When trying to discover the best frequency of acupuncture treatments for your migraines try the following steps:
Keep a migraine diary: Before the start of acupuncture treatments, and after starting acupuncture treatments — keep track of symptoms, duration, and timing of your migraines.
Communicate: Talk to your acupuncturist of the information you have tracked in your migraine diary.
Create a treatment plan: Create a plan of treatment for the frequency of acupuncture sessions.
Document: Continue to document the impact or changes of migraine severity or symptoms in correlation to acupuncture frequency.
Change: Change and implement acupuncture treatment frequency as needed.
How Much Does Acupuncture Cost for Migraines?
So, can acupuncture help with migraines? Yes, but how much does acupuncture cost for migraines? The answer to this question depends on the following factors:
Cost per session
The cost per an acupuncture session ranges from $75-$160. Depending on the frequency of treatment you find best meets your needs, you may find yourself spending $280 to $1200 for weekly or bi-weekly acupuncture treatment. For more information, read: How Much Does Acupuncture Cost?
If you would like information on low-cost acupuncture, a Community Acupuncture Clinic may be a great choice for you. Want to know more? Read: What is Community Acupuncture Like?
The Power of Acupuncture: Migraines and Co-Occurring Conditions
If you have chronic migraines, you may have a greater chance of also having the following mental health conditions:
Interestingly, both depression and anxiety also can benefit from acupuncture treatments. Want to know how? Read Acupuncture for Anxiety and Acupuncture for Depression.
What Pressure Points get Rid of Migraines?
Acupressure points are also one other natural treatment option for migraines. Here is a list of pressure points to get rid of migraines:
Gallbladder 20 or Feng Chi
Gallbladder 21 or Jian Jing
Large Intestine 6 or He Gu
Pericardium 6 or Nei Guan
Triple Energizer 3 or Zhong Zhu
3 Other Natural Holistic Treatment Options for Migraines
If acupuncture does not seem like the natural treatment option for migraines that you want to try, here are three other options:
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Linde, K., Allais, G., Brinkhaus, B., Fei, Y., Mehring, M., Shin, B. C., Vickers, A., … White, A. R. (2016). Acupuncture for the prevention of tension-type headache. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 4, CD007587. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007587.pub2. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955729/
Liu, L., Zhao, L. P., Zhang, C. S., Zeng, L., Wang, K., Zhao, J., Wang, L., Jing, X., … Li, B. (2018). Acupuncture as prophylaxis for chronic migraine: a protocol for a single-blinded, double-dummy randomised controlled trial. BMJ open, 8(5), e020653. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020653. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5988062/
Molsberger A. (2012). The role of acupuncture in the treatment of migraine. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 184(4), 391-2. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291665/
Whyte, C. A., & Tepper, S. J. (2009). Adverse effects of medications commonly used in the treatment of migraine. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 9(9), 1379-1391. doi:10.1586/ern.09.47. Retrieved February 6, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1027772/