Migraines: Yes, Acupuncture Can Help!

Posted on Jan 10, 2013

Migraines: Yes, Acupuncture Can Help!

Migraines are awful. As if a headache alone wasn’t enough, migraines typically add in a not-so-fun mix of light and sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and a general turning up to “11” of life’s daily nuisances. Thankfully, acupuncture can help. Last year the NY Times reported on a study, one of the most rigorous and thorough done to date, that showed acupuncture (surprise, surprise) was effective for a number of problems:

“The researchers, who¬†published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.”

Nice. Another recent meta-analysis by the Cochrane Review came to similar conclusions:

We reviewed 22 trials which investigated whether acupuncture is effective in the prophylaxis of migraine. Six trials investigating whether adding acupuncture to basic care (which usually involves only treating acute headaches) found that those patients who received acupuncture had fewer headaches. Fourteen trials compared true acupuncture with inadequate or fake acupuncture interventions in which needles were either inserted at incorrect points or did not penetrate the skin. In these trials both groups had fewer headaches than before treatment, but there was no difference between the effects of the two treatments. In the four trials in which acupuncture was compared to a proven prophylactic drug treatment, patients receiving acupuncture tended to report more improvement and fewer side effects. Collectively, the studies suggest that migraine patients benefit from acupuncture, although the correct placement of needles seems to be less relevant than is usually thought by acupuncturists.

More improvement and fewer side effects, I’ll take it! I’ll save wading too deeply into the “correct points” debate for another

Acupuncture point SJ3

San Jiao 3

article, but good luck getting 10 acupuncturists to agree on the “correct” set of points for anything. We just wish we could get more of them to agree on making acupuncture affordable for the average person, forget point selection! If you’re getting acupuncture in Fort Myers, our sliding scale makes us by far the most affordable way of getting migraine relief.

The other day we had a great experience with a migraine patient who’d been dealing with this particular migraine for the past 24hrs. It was her first experience with acupuncture, and she was at the “I’ll try anything” stage of fed up. I put most of her needles in, and she was getting nicely relaxed, but when I put in the last one at San Jiao 3, she just let out this relieved sigh. “That last one you did, just made the whole thing release! It’s about 80% gone already!” As much as I love validation from major studies, I’ll take the relieved sigh any day of the week.

What Can You Do At Home?

With migraines, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Of course sleep, massage, ice packs, heating pads etc can all help, but generally a patient who’s coming to us for migraine relief has already figured out what in that lineup works for them. One thing many of our patients don’t seem to know is that there can be trigger foods that set off a migraine attack. Onions are a common one, as is MSG, but a whole list of potential problem foods is not usually helpful. Instead, try to pay attention to what you’ve had prior to getting a migraine, and if a certain food or ingredient seems to keep popping up, try eliminating it and seeing how your migraines do.



  1. Does acupunture really work? ….please answer me honestly.

    • Yes, yes it does.

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