Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraine

Acupuncture, which is a part of the Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), has been successful in drawing a lot of attention off late due to its popularity in relieving chronic pains like Backache and Migraine. Several countries have recognized the efficacy of Acupuncture in treating cases of Migraine and have included it as a complementary and alternative form of treatment.

How does Acupuncture work?

According to the TCM, the physical, mental and spiritual health of the body is maintained by the harmonious flow of life force or vital energy, which is called as the “Qi”. This life force comprises of 2 naturally existing and opposing forces called “Yin and Yang”, and it flows throughout the body along specific paths called meridians. Whenever there is an interruption or disturbance to the flow of “Qi”, the Yin and Yang get thrown out of balance and illness occurs.

Acupuncturists believe that Acupuncture points are specific points where the meridians come to the surface of skin. These meridians can be accessed by inserting thin fine needles or applying different kinds of stimuli like, heat, electricity or pressure through specific acupressure points.

Repeated stimulation of Acupressure points clears the obstructed pathways and leads to an even flow of energy, thus relieving the ailments. This ancient philosophical theory lacks scientific backing. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of “Qi” or the meridians. However, for thousands of years, TCM practitioners believed and successfully treated certain problems based on this theory

What does research say?

Several scientific studies have been conducted to prove the efficacy of Acupuncture in treating cases of Headache and Migraine. Most of the studies revealed that patients suffering from Migraine, when treated with Acupuncture reported more than 50% relief of symptoms and also had less frequent attacks than those on drug therapy.

But there is also an interesting fact; several studies have reported that sham Acupuncture works as good as genuine Acupuncture in the treatment of headaches and migraine.

Studies were conducted on patients suffering from migraine. They were divided into 2 groups and sent for equal number of Acupuncture sessions. The only difference was that one group was given genuine Acupuncture with needles being inserted along the specified meridians and pressure points, and the other only sham acupuncture where the needles were placed randomly at unspecified points. Surprisingly, at the end of their sessions, both the groups have reported to be benefited from the therapy.
It is not very clear as to how sham acupuncture has been able to relieve the pain.  Some scientists believe that there could be something else as well, that could be happening in the body.

According to some scientists, Acupuncture needles could possibly stimulate the nerves and alter messages from brain and spinal cord. It could promote the release of neurotransmitters like “serotonin” and also endorphins, which are body’s natural painkillers.

Acupuncture may also cause the release of ‘Histamine’, which is a vasodilator. Dilatation of constricted blood vessels leads to improved blood circulation, thus relieving the pain.

Some others think that it’s the patient’s belief and also the trust and faith that get established due to hands-on interaction with the Acupuncturist, which creates a positive impact and placebo effect.

Whatever be the theory, most of the scientific studies concluded that patients on Acupuncture treatment, whether genuine or sham, did report fewer migraine days and milder attacks than those on drug therapy.

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