Migraine is a type of primary headache disorder in which one experiences recurring headaches that are usually severe. The headaches usually occur on one side of the head and throbbing. One in three migraine sufferers experience aura which is a form of visual disturbance that usually comes before the headache. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light, smell or sound
Headache pain is believed to be due to over dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Pain receptors are located around these blood vessels and become activated when the blood vessels dilate excessively. This dilation is believed to be a compensatory mechanism to constriction of vessels that occur in a chronically sympathetic-dominant state. This state occurs when the body is constantly being stressed.
With the use of acupuncture, the body can be relaxed and turned from a predominantly sympathetic state to a predominantly parasympathetic state. This is done by placing needles at specific points in the body. These needles are then electrically or manually stimulated which leads to an increase in blood flow and reduction of inflammatory mediators.
According to a study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Association (JAMA), migraine sufferers received long term relief using acupuncture.
The study involved 249 patients who suffered from a migraine without aura. The patients were divided into 3 different groups. One group comprised of patients that were treated with true acupuncture and called true acupuncture group. The second group comprised of patients that were treated with false acupuncture and were called sham acupuncture group. The last group comprised of those that had no treatment with acupuncture at all and were called the control group.
The acupuncture treatment was provided for four weeks, and the patients were monitored further for twenty weeks. During this time, all the patients were provided with a diary where they recorded how often they had migraines. After the twenty weeks, the records were gathered and long term effects of acupuncture were evaluated.
The findings of a Cochrane study showed that if patients before commencement of treatment had 6 days of migraine per month. The frequency was reduced to five days in patients receiving only usual care. It was reduced to four days in those receiving fake acupuncture. In those receiving true acupuncture, it was reduced to an average of three days per month. This is a reduction of almost 50% in frequency of episodes of migraine suffered by patients.
Proofs of the efficacy of acupuncture in providing long term relief to migraine sufferers or providing pain relief, in general, have been previously established. In 2008, Duke University released a press statement where they said that acupuncture was superior to conventional medications in the reduction of the severity and frequency of chronic headaches.
Due to the widely known effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic headaches, the National Institutes of Health have recommended it as a viable treatment for chronic headaches for several years.