Migraines are headaches with recurrent attacks, and can last for several days. They are sometimes preceded by a visual aura and can involve nausea and vomiting. The headache is usually on one side of the head, perhaps around the temple, and is often severe and maybe pounding. Migraines affect around 15% of adults, and for many of these people the symptoms are incapacitating; sufferers may have to lie down in a dark and quiet room and wait for the headache to subside.
Sometimes migraines may be triggered by such things as certain foods, stress, bright lights or loud noise. Some women are more likely to get a migraine just before or during their period. More often than not, however, there is no obvious trigger to a migraine attack.
Migraines in TCM most commonly arise because of a relative excess of Yang energy. It is in the nature of Yang to rise, and if this rising is unchecked by insufficient Yin, this is what happens—Yang energy rises up along one or more meridians until it gets to the head, where it has nowhere else to go, and where it therefore, as it were, bangs against the head, causing the typical throb of a migraine headache.
So in the first instance treatment needs to root the Yang, hold it down, and stop it rising up ‘rebelliously’. Acupuncture is usually an effective means to this end.
Moreover, treatment also needs to address the imbalance which is causing the Yang to rise. This often means that the Yin energy needs to be nourished, and for this acupuncture as well as perhaps herbal therapy will be used, but we will also need to support this treatment by eating Yin nourishing foods and perhaps by appropriate rest and relaxation, for whereas Yang is the active and dynamic side of our nature, Yin is the quiet, reflective side. Modern life can therefore mean that our Yin gets a raw deal!
Another factor causing the Yang to rise is what we call Qi Stagnation. Here the Qi is not flowing freely, often due to stress and tension, and this makes it more likely that the Yang Qi will rush upwards. Acupuncture and appropriate exercise and self-expression will free up the Qi and help stop the migraines.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Migraine?
A recent large scale trial involving 400 patients in GP practices1 found that acupuncture was more than twice as effective as the standard (western medical) treatment for chronic headaches (of all kinds), and resulted in better improvement in quality of life; this trial recommended that acupuncture should be more widely available for headache patients on the NHS and concluded that: “Acupuncture leads to persisting, clinically relevant benefits for primary care patients with chronic headache, particularly migraine”
A more recent and very large scale trial in Germany2, with almost 800 migraine sufferers participating, also found acupuncture to be more effective than pharmacological treatment in the prevention of chronic headache and migraine.
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Having lived with Migraine for nearly fifty years one tends to accept the situation. In my case I always consider that I am lucky in the respect that the majority of my attacks impair my vision only and the headaches are few and far between. However, having said that, when the headaches kick-in, then they are severe.
Ten months ago, attacks were dramatically on the increase, from one a month to three a week and in one instance, three in one day.
Over the years I have been subjected to innumerable pills prescribed by various Medical Practitioners, who generally admit they do not know how to treat the condition.
A work colleague, had for some time, suggested Acupuncture, as she has knowledge of its benefits. At the time I was receiving Chiropractic treatment for migraine, which although it relieved the tension in my neck muscles did not actually reduce the attacks. I was at the point where I would try anything, to relieve not only the pain but also the ever increasing inconvenience to my employer and myself, so on her recommendation I contacted Sean Barkes.
Following four months of intensive treatment consisting of once a week to now periods of four/five weeks between treatments, my life has changed.
I may not be cured totally, that remains to be seen in the future, but I haven’t had one attack in 5 weeks.
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I first attended the Sean Barkes Clinic seven weeks ago for alternative therapy following years of suffering from migraine attacks. I was fed up of taking drugs from my GP when I suffered an attack and then spending up to 24 hours afterwards feeling really quite poorly and drained.
Austin recommended a treatment of Acupuncture and had the time to spend over an hour and half with me on my first appointment to discuss my lifestyle, history and diet, this is more time than my GP has ever spent with me and he looked at why I may be suffering the attacks as a preventative rather than just seeking a cure. Austin suggested a programme of acupuncture with different points as the treatment progressed. We also discussed my diet due to my attacks being caused by a number of different problems.
I really am so very impressed with the results to date, my migraines appear to have gone and during the treatment I was suffering a nasty cold but Austin used some additional needles which helped expel my cold and I felt so much better – almost instantly.
All the staff at the clinic are extremely approachable, they have time for you and I have never felt rushed, this is something you never get from an ordinary GP surgery. The results have been fantastic and I only wish I had come across Acupuncture and the clinic when I was sitting my examinations!!!!
During my sessions I feel so relaxed and look forward to attending – a must for anyone and I strongly recommend that you give the clinic a go for whatever ailment you need treating…..
1. Vickers A et al (2004) Acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care: large, pragmatic, randomised trial BMJ 2004;328:744
2. Endres et al (2007) Acupuncture for the Treatment of Chronic Headaches Dtsch Arztebl 2007; 104(3): A 114–22
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