There are many different types of headaches, but the four major categories are sinus, tension, migraine, and cluster headaches. Every headache type is classified as either primary, where no underlying illness is causing the problem, or secondary. Headaches’ treatment is based on the type and cause, which can be as simple as dehydration or sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow. As many causes are so common, over 50 million of us experience a severe headache at some point in our lives.
Migraine treatment must address the underlying cause to be truly effective. Drugs may work temporarily, but don’t address one or more root causes, and can result in side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are safe and effective alternatives, however. Their holistic approach to migraine treatment protects against side effects and allows for true headache relief.
What does the evidence say? A large review of clinical trials has found that acupuncture is at least as effective for migraine as conventional pharmaceuticals. The studies comparing acupuncture to conventional drugs for migraine found a higher percentage of patients who reported an at least 50% reduction in frequency. Approximately 41% of people using acupuncture had an at least 50% frequency reduction, compared to 17% in the drug treatment group.
Acupuncture is an effective migraine treatment through its ability to regulate the flow of energy (Qi, also spelled Chi) around the body. This has a large number of effects on the body. In the case of migraine, acupuncture decreases excessive blood flow force in the arteries that feed your head. Migraine involves a dysregulation of blood flow, which first reduces and then rebounds, leading to severe headaches as your brain is in an enclosed space.
Changes may occur quickly or over a long period depending on your constitution and how deeply your underlying issues are situated, but in the short term stress relief and relaxation are common benefits.
Contraindications for migraine treatment include infection, acute head injury and certain underlying illnesses. If this sounds like you, speak to your usual doctor first.