There are more than 3 million U.S cases of migraines every year with even more countless cases of mild-to-moderate headaches. It is no wonder that the opioid medication market is a booming industry. But, with the side effects such as brain fog and sleepiness, more Americans are turning to alternative options with acupuncture being at the top of the list.
How does acupuncture treat migraines/headaches?
Acupuncture is a 5000 year old Chinese medical system that studied the anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system, nervous system and musculo-sinew system. The Chinese recognized through the centuries that where these three systems came together in large bundles, they can be stimulated with a needle to create a positive change in the body. Research is now showing that the positive changes in the body include:
Vasodilation at acupuncture points
Increased muscle relaxation
Increased blood flow
Increased levels of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin
Boost in immune system
Decrease in inflammations markers
Rerouting of pain pathways in the brain to break repetitive pain cycles
All of this contribute to helping patients with recurrent migraines and headaches.
In 2009, a systematic review of twenty-two trials found “there is consistent evidence that acupuncture provides additional benefit to the treatment of acute migraine attacks only or to routine care.”
In 2017, a systematic review of twelve trials found that “the available results suggest that acupuncture is effective for frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches”.
In 2019, a systematic review of episodic migraines found that “moderate evidence suggests that acupuncture is ‘at least non-inferior’ to now-proven, conventional treatments”, meaning that acupuncture is as proven to help people on the same level as current medications.