By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.

Migraines are intense pounding headaches that can last from hours to several days. About 12% of the US population suffers from these debilitating attacks. The pain is often on one side of the head, and there may be extreme sensitivity to light, movement and sound. In some cases, people may also suffer nausea and vomiting. This is a neurological disease, and ranked among the world’s top 20 disabling diseases.

Researchers don’t fully understand the cause of migraines, but are studying the theory that drops in serotonin levels during attacks may affect the pain response in the brain. The Mayo Clinic reports that up to 90% of people with migraines have a family history of these headaches. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer migraines.

There are numerous triggers for migraines, including:

  • Food and drink, e.g., caffeinated beverages, alcohol, chocolate, and MSG.

  • Dehydration or skipping meals.

  • Hormone fluctuations.

  • Stress.

  • Anxiety

  • Lack of Sleep

  • Loud sounds, bright lights, and strong odors.

  • Medications

  • Illness/infections.

‘Classic’ migraines come with a warning sign or “aura,” such as flashing lights, colors,  partial vision loss, or muscle weakness. “Common’ migraines are not preceded by auras.

Migraine symptoms include:

  • Intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one side of your head or both sides

  • Pain that worsens with physical activity

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Changes in how you see, including blurred vision or blind spots

  • Being bothered by light, noise or odors

  • Feeling tired and/or confused

  • Stopped-up nose

  • Feeling cold or sweaty

  • Stiff or tender neck

  • Lightheadedness

  • Tender scalp

Conventional Treatment

Doctors typically prescribe medication to prevent the attacks and/or to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture and other stress management strategies such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback may reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks. For overweight patients, weight loss may be helpful.

Acupuncture

We treat migraines frequently at Beach Community Acupuncture. Many patients report to us that acupuncture is the only treatment that helps. We often treat people during attacks, and most of the time, they leave us pain-free. In addition, we strongly advise people to follow a treatment plan directed at reducing the frequency and severity of attacks. Depending on how severe and frequent the attacks, we will advise between twice a week and daily treatments until we see a major shift. After that, people come every week or two for prevention of attacks. Most of the points we use will be in the feet and hands.

We really enjoy working with people who suffer migraines, because acupuncture can make such a big difference in their quality of life.

Sources and More Information:

Mayo Clinic

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/basics/definition/CON-20026358

NIH

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/migraine.html

Migraine Research Foundation

http://www.migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine.html