According to the British Acupuncture Council, ‘there have now been many controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine, with some large, high-quality ones in recent years. The results of the latest reviews are quite consistent: acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment/basic care for managing migraine, and appears to be at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy, with few contraindications or unpleasant side effects.’ The British Acupuncture Council holds that acupuncture may help in the treatment of migraine by i) providing pain relief, ii) reducing inflammation, iii) reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression and plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P, iv) modulating extracranial and intracranial blood flow, and v) affecting serotonin levels in the brain.
The following description is illustrative of some common ways that I approach this work. I will always adapt my treatment plan in accord with my findings and always with your consent.
I will start with an assessment to determine any underlying deficiencies that may be contributing to your migraines. Then, I am likely to start with some guasha on your neck and shoulders before moving on to apply acupuncture or tuina-massage techniques. I often use acupuncture alone, but tuina is also very beneficial.
Guasha involves using a round edged tool to rub across the surface of your skin. This technique is great for relaxing muscles and stimulating the flow of blood and qi in the areas where it is applied. Once familiar with the technique, I recommend that client’s apply this guasha treatment at home when they feel a migraine coming on.
When treating migraines, I often stimulate points on the scalp that are close to where your pain is being experienced, as well as points further away that have been identified as having a therapeutic effect on the problem area. These needles may be retained for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Then, at the end of treatment, I very commonly apply some needles that are quickly removed a soon as their effect is felt.
When addressing migraines, I will use tuina-massage techniques around the scalp, neck and face. Then, I will work down the channels of the back and arms, stimulating points that are believed to help with clearing pathogenic-qi and nourishing deficiencies associated with migraines. I will finish with acupressure techniques on the face in order to calm the mind and promote rest.
Meditation and visualisation are a great way to settle pathogenic-qi that has risen to the head, and I always recommend that migraine sufferers apply guasha & a self-treatment visualisation when they experience the early warning signs of an attack.
Tai Chi and Qigong provide a gentle physical exercise which medical studies have shown to be beneficial for the health of the heart, bones, nerves, muscles, and immune system. They are a great way to support your acupuncture and tuina-massage treatments.