Acupuncture for Headaches & Migraines

Acupuncture for Headaches & Migraines

It has been known for many decades (actually, many centuries!) that acupuncture is an effective modality for the treatment of pain, including migraines and headaches. In March 15, 2004 a study published in the British Medical Journal, then chronicled By Jennifer Warner and Brunilda Nazario, MD of WebMD Health News: “Researchers found that compared with standard medical care, acupuncture offers substantial benefits in preventing headaches and improving the quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, especially migraines. Acupuncture may provide lasting relief from the pain of chronic headaches, such as migraines, according to a new study.”

In the study, they concluded that participants needed less medication, fewer visits to their doctor, fewer days off sick from work and fewer days with headaches. Researchers also reported that acupuncture improves the quality of life for people with chronic headaches at a small additional cost. Acupuncture is known for its benefits in treating most types of chronic pain, but this was the first large-scale study specifically related to headaches and migraines.

The story is no longer new – neither is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years because it works. It works on humans and on animals. It works for pain, headaches, and many other health challenges.

In a 2008 study conducted at the University of Padua in Italy by Dr. Enrico Facco and his colleagues, published in the March, 2008 journal, Headache, the findings confirmed that acupuncture “significantly reduces migraines and works better than drugs alone”.  They found that only the group receiving true, traditional acupuncture showed lasting improvement in migraine disability measured on a standardized scale.  The groups using only migraine medication or mock acupuncture plus a migraine medication showed only temporary improvement. Dr. Facco theorizes that acupuncture prevents a migraine by altering nerve signals or affecting neurotransmitters released in the central nervous system.

In fact, in studies using fMRI scans it was found that acupuncture actually changed the way we perceive pain by regulating parts of the brain in charge of controlling pain. Acupuncture stimulates the release of neurotransmitters which relax the body and decrease pain. These include endorphins, dynorphins, and enkephalins.  These are the normal opiates the brain makes to control pain.

The other way that acupuncture influences headaches are by correcting the root imbalance. For example, many women have migraines around their menstrual cycle or during menopause. By correcting the hormonal imbalance, acupuncture eliminates the headaches. Acupuncture also releases the muscle tension and inflammation that results from stress, structural imbalances, and injuries. Too frequently headache sufferers get locked into a cycle of muscle tightness and inflammation that keeps the headaches returning. By breaking the cycle, relief can be found.

More than 10 million Americans have used acupuncture in the United States to resolve their health issues. Since there is little risk of side effects and a great opportunity for resolution of migraines and headaches, now is the time to experience acupuncture for yourself.


Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience.  Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic.