Migraine is a common disorder, characterized by moderate to severe headache attacks, typically localized on one side of the head. Different groups of medications, such as NSAIDS, beta-blockers, triptans and valproates are successfully used in the management of migraine. However, in order to avoid their side effects, alternative methods of treatment such as acupuncture are also applied.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture exercises its beneficial effects for patients with migraine as it:
1. Stimulates the release of endorphins and other chemical substances by influencing the nerve endings situated in the muscles and tissues. In that way acupuncture modulates the perception of pain of the brain and the spinal cord and therefore leads to pain relief.
2. Affects blood vessels and in that way influences intra and extracranial blood flow, which abnormal state is associated with migraine.
3. Decreases the degree of the electrical waves in the brain associated with migraine.
4. Decreases the plasma levels of substances implemented in the pathological mechanisms of migraine (such as calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P).
5. Regulates the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is another substance participating into the migraine genesis.
6. Stimulates the release of anti-inflammatory factors and therefore reduces the inflammation.
Different researches show that:
1. Acupuncture could be used in the management of acute migraine attacks or as a prophylaxis between the attacks.
2. Acupuncture applied in addition to the standard drug treatment reduces the frequency of migraine attacks compared to drug treatment alone.
3. Acupuncture is more effective than placebo.
4. The positive effects of acupuncture in terms of pain management persist even a year later.
5. Acupuncture is cost-effective and has no serious side effects .
1. British Acupuncture Council. Migraine Link
2. Traditional acupuncture in migraine: a controlled, randomized study. Facco E1, Liguori A, Petti F, Zanette G, Coluzzi F, De Nardin M, Mattia C. Headache. 2008 Mar;48(3):398-407. Epub 2007 Sep 12.
3. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine.Linde K1, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA, Vickers A, White AR. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jun 28;(6):CD001218. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub3.
4. The persistence of the effects of acupuncture after a course of treatment: A meta-analysis of patients with chronic pain. (MacPherson H1, Vertosick EA, Foster NE, Lewith G, Linde K, Sherman KJ, Witt CM, Vickers AJ; Acupuncture Trialistsʼ Collaboration.) Pain. 2016 Oct 17.