Headaches, Migraine and Acupuncture

About 15 to 20% of the population suffer from migraines. There are twice as many female sufferers, which suggests that hormones and hormonal changes play an important role. The treatment costs the NHS an estimated £ 20 million per year. It has dramatic effects on the economy as a lot of sufferers miss valuable time at work.


What is a migraine?

It is defined as a throbbing, stabbing or pulsating headache, often occurring only on one side of the temple or forehead. They occur in bouts of 4 – 72 hour long attacks, can cause nausea and vomiting, light and sound sensitivity. A lot of sufferers experience vision distortions, zigzag lines or flashing lights shortly before an attack.


Migraines can be triggered by:


  • Stress, anxiety.
  • Diet (skipping meals).
  • Certain types of food (chocolate, cheese and citrus fruit, coffee, tea, alcohol).
  • Hormonal changes (the pill, during a menstrual cycle, before or during menopause).
  • Lack of sleep or change in sleep patterns.
  • Bright or flashing lights.
  • Noise.
  • Strong odours like paint or perfumes.
  • Smoking or exposure to smoke.
  • Weather changes.


The highly debilitating nature of frequent migraine attacks brings many sufferers to acupuncture to find help and pain relief. Acupuncture treats the root of the problem and lessens the intensity and frequency with which migraines reoccur and therefore improves the quality of life considerably.


When you come for acupuncture treatment your practitioner will ask you about the precise location of the headache/migraine. It can be in the nape of the neck (occiput), on top of the head, inside the whole head, at one side or on both temples, behind the eyes or across the forehead. You will also be asked to describe if the pain occurs at a certain time of day/night, if it is better/worse when lying down, and you are asked to describe the nature of the pain (dull, sharp, throbbing, feeling of emptiness). All this gives your practitioner an indication of what your specific problem is and how to treat your migraine or headache. My patients are often concerned about where the needles go. If you are treated for headaches it does not necessarily mean that the very fine needles used for acupuncture are placed on the head, they can be in your feet, legs or arms, depending which meridians are affected. Acupuncture generally is a very relaxing experience and is not painful.


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