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There is no cure for migraines and as such it is one of the most frequent complaints that finds its way into the acupuncture clinic, with patients often being referred by their doctors, since western medicine cannot always treat it successfully. Acupuncture treatment is significantly more beneficial in treating migraines than any other therapeutic measure. More than 30% of patients receiving acupuncture in the west suffer from chronic headaches or migraine and the success achieved in treating these has enhanced the spread of acupuncture in the west.
What is a migraine?
Migraine is not just a bad headache, but more of an intense, extremely painful recurring headache which can last for several hours and continue for a couple of days. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as visual problems, increased sensitivity to light or sound and some may experience nausea (feeling sick). Prior to a migraine starting you may have some warning signs, for example seeing zig zag lines, blurred vision, pins and needles of the face, lips and tongue, slurred speech, stiff neck or dizziness. Some people have a craving for sweets, are thirsty, feel sleepy or depressed. Following a migraine attack you can feel tired for two to three days. There is no cure for migraine, but with treatment they can be managed by reducing the frequency of attacks and relieving the pain once an attack has started.
What causes migraines?
The exact cause of migraines is not known. People who experience an aura before an attack may be experiencing an electrical disturbance in the brain. During a migraine attack there appears to be a change in the blood vessels in the brain, altering the biochemistry and resulting in inflammation. Women are twice as likely to experience migraine as men, this is thought to be due to hormonal changes, occurring either just before a (menstrual) period or just after it starts. Some women can develop migraines when they start the birth control pill, as can women approaching menopause or taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
Migraine triggers can be varied and different for each person and therefore it helps to try and identify which factors might affect you so you can try and avoid them. Some people find they can cope with one trigger, but a combination of triggers can push you over the threshold to cause an attack. It may help to note what you have been eating or what you’ve been doing prior to an attack, which helps to identify your triggers and patterns.
Stress, anxiety, anger, shock & excitement.
Eye strain from using a computer, neck and shoulder tension, lack of sleep, tiredness, and dental problems (e.g. grinding your teeth).
Loud noise, bright lights and smokey environments.
Irregular meals, lack of food, dehydration, caffeine, alcohol (especially red wine), chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits and foods with MSG (mono sodium glucamate). Artificial sweeteners (aspartame), tyramine and nitrates.
Smoking and some sleeping tablets