Posts related to how acupuncture can help improve your health.

Acupuncture to treat migraine headaches

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.

Acupuncture for migraine headaches

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

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.

Emotional triggers:

Stress, anxiety, anger, shock & excitement.

Physical triggers:

Eye strain from using a computer, neck and shoulder tension, lack of sleep, tiredness, and dental problems (e.g. grinding your teeth).

Environmental triggers:

Loud noise, bright lights and smokey environments.

Dietary triggers:

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.

Other triggers:

Smoking and some sleeping tablets

[Brain and spine foundation]

What you can do to help prevent migraines

Eating regular meals, drinking plenty of water, keeping stress levels down and getting enough sleep is a good start. Also ensure you also take regular breaks from computer use, including laptops, desktops, tablets, smart phones and television/gaming consoles. Keeping a diary of your migraines will help identify your triggers and any patterns. It helps to take this information to your appointment. Many people may have already seen their GP who may have prescribed medication to help prevent the severity of attacks, but will not stop them completely.

Some suggested natural relief remedies.


A study in the International Headache Society Journal found that it helps the body’s receptors to be less sensitive to migraine triggers. Also note The Migraine Trust in regard to taking magnesium.

Folic Acid

Australian research shows that drastic improvements in the severity of migraines  when taking supplements.  Folic acid reduces homocysteine, of which high levels are found in people with the migraine gene MTHFR.

Vitamin B12 (riboflavin)

Australian studies has shown that increasing your uptake of  this has helped migraine sufferers.  Either take a supplement or eat more spinach and almonds.

Balance essential fatty acids

Too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 can lead to inflammation and trigger headaches. Limit processed foods as these often contain omega-6 rich polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Increase intake of  oily fish or take fish oil tablets.

Relaxation techniques

Meditation, pilates or yoga are helpful in managing stress.

[Healthy Magazine]

How can acupuncture help with migraines?

Acupuncture treatment for migraines is specific to the individual symptoms and underlying causes. Therefore the location and type of pain is very important for the planning of each persons acupuncture treatment.

Traditional acupuncture takes a holistic approach using our skill and experience to identify the underlying imbalance or root cause of the migraines. This can vary from person to person and as such the choice of acupuncture points chosen will be specific to each clients needs. In addition, changes in these choice of points may change and vary over time as improvements occur. Migraines are thought to begin as an electrical phenomenon in the cerebrum, which in turn affects blood vessels, biochemistry and causes neurogenic inflammation. Acupuncture can help by reducing the degree of electrical wave activity, regulating intra and extra cranial blood flow, therefore reducing inflammation and providing pain relief.

NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) have recommended acupuncture for tension type headaches and migraines, suggesting that GPs recommend acupuncture for their patients. All controlled studies show that acupuncture is effective in over 80% of patients, helping to reduce the intensity, frequency and duration of migraine attacks. A course of six to ten treatments is recommended at weekly intervals initially, then having longer periods between each session as sustained improvements are experienced.


If you suffer from migraine and would like to book an acupuncture treatment, contact Mary.

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Further reading

Results of academic studies and research on the efficacy of treating migraines with acupuncture.

Can acupuncture cure my migraine? – BBC Article



Mary Shevlin’s Acupuncture Aid Journey, from Leamington Spa to Gaza

Hello All,

Mary with Sherin at the UHC Clinic

Mary with Sherin at the UHC Clinic

I am writing to thank you for supporting my recent acupuncture work in Gaza, which was a truly a remarkable experience, and to share with you some of my experiences during my time there.

I was part of a team of ten acupuncturists, one researcher and one therapist. We worked from three medical centres in the Gaza strip run by United Health Care Committee and were assisted by clinical staff that helped with translation. The warmth and good spirits of these staff was exceptional, especially in light of their ongoing struggle and still surrounded with reminders of the January 2009 war, where several bombed and crashed ambulances/mobile clinic vehicles remain in the clinic grounds. The volume of patients coming for treatment was huge, men and women of all ages and many children also. The conditions they presented with were vast and varied, ranging from muscular skeletal problems (such as neck, shoulder, back, hip and knee pain), respiratory and neurological conditions. Many showed signs of anxiety, stress and fear; in general, post traumatic stress symptoms. Thankfully a number of conditions could be treated with acupuncture. However some problems were beyond our experience and a stark reminder of the sometimes limiting or lack of medical expertise available there, something we all too often take for granted here in England. Some of the more serious and complicated medical conditions are difficult for the Gaza people to address due to their inability to travel freely in and out of Gaza. As such, some of their expectations stretched beyond our capabilities and resources, especially in the short period of time we were there.

The walk across no man’s land between Israel & Gaza

‘The Long Mile’
The walk across no man’s land between Israel & Gaza

During this visit, as with a previous one, some local medical personal were trained in a five point auricular protocol (ear acupuncture), which is used widely for the treatment of stress and trauma. This enables continued treatment of patients with a model of care that is convenient and economical, therefore several patients can be treated at the same time and this helps cope with large numbers attending the clinics.

We treated between five to eight patients in one room at any one time, each receiving an approximately ten to fifteen minute acupuncture treatment. This was in stark contrast to how we practice here in England, where each patient gets one hour, alone.  However, there was much to be said for having several people been treated in the same room, as their positivity and desire to become well was contagious. On the other hand they often all wanted the ‘same’ treatment as the people around them and this could be challenging, especially with time constraints and appropriateness of treatment.

The availability of only one couch could also pose a problem as to whom, if anyone got the privilege of using it. Contrary to what might be thought it was not always the infirmed or elderly who benefitted, but mostly some of the young men who were more inclined to faint!

The Gaza skyline with the remains of a bombed out political headquarters in the foreground

The Gaza skyline with the remains of a bombed out political headquarters in the foreground

In regard to Gaza and the general atmosphere there, I can only say that there was a great spirit of hope, determination and joy. Despite the apparent affects of ongoing war and oppression, there were little gems of material improvements to be seen, an appetite for knowledge and a zest for life and enjoyment which we witnessed on a daily basis. Hardly an evening went by without hearing small groups of young people on their way to some celebration playing their musical instruments and in high spirits. This vision was pleasing to the eye, music to the ears and food for the soul.

This journey would not have been possible without your support and I offer a wholehearted thank you for making it possible.


In Association with World Medicine

World Medicine is charity providing acupuncture to people around the world suffering the effects of trauma, disaster and poverty.

We offer humanitarian aid and training where it is most needed, regardless of race, religion, the politics or gender in order to strengthen and support local communities.


Mary Shevlin is an experienced acupuncturist and medical professional with a practice in Leamington Spa. If you have any questions about how acupuncture may be able to help you or you’d like to book an acupuncture appointment, contact Mary.

This is an updated version of the original article for the new website.

Seasonal tune-up and hay fever prevention.

Seasonal ‘tune-up’ and hay fever prevention.

Pink lotus flowerWe are now in the transition from winter to spring and it’s the perfect time to come out of hibernation and wake up the mind and body! So, put a spring in your step and a smile on your face with a ‘seasonal tune-up’. Traditionally this has been used for thousands of years for those who receive acupuncture to maintain health. For those who suffer from hay fever, this is the ideal time to commence treatment to help prevent the onset of any symptoms.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is the common term used for seasonal allergic rhinitis and it is an allergic reaction to pollen. This usually commences with the onset of spring and can continue right through to the summer and autumn. In contrast, perennial allergic rhinitis is when suffers get symptoms all the year round. This is generally due to dust, house mites, animal dander and fungal spores.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Sneezing, runny nose and itchy red eyes. You may also have a cough and sinus congestion. Approximately 20% of people who get hay fever also have asthma and eczema.

Why is it happening?

It is due to an antigen-antibody reaction to pollen particles in the lining of the nose. The immune system reacts to the inhaled substance as though it was harmful (even though it isn’t) and the cells in the lining of your nose, eyes and mouth release histamine, which then triggers the distressing hay fever symptoms. With each exposure to the pollen(s) the immune system reacts, therefore resulting in an over reactivity of the immune system.

What to do.

Conventional medicine treatment is generally to use antihistamine medication. These work by preventing histamine from reaching its site of action. Antihistamines will help to relieve some of the symptoms, but does not treat any of the underlying or Picture of fresh honeyroot causes of the problem. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is viewed in more depth and primarily looks at addressing the root cause and not just the symptoms. The condition of the lungs and kidney are assessed as it may be due to a deficiency in these, which the individual may be predisposed to. As such, it is important to start treatment for hay fever symptoms a couple of months before the pollen season starts. Ideally commencement of treatment in February/March helps to redress and balance the immune system and prevents the onset of symptoms.

A few brief acupuncture sessions close together from February/March followed by periodic treatments (monthly) throughout the pollen season will help to provide a season free from the distressing hay fever symptoms.

What can you do to help yourself?

  • Apple cider vinegar – Take 3 times a day if experiencing symptoms, take once daily if experiencing no symptoms.
  • Turmeric – Take half a teaspoon 3 times a day in hot water or warm milk. You can add honey to taste.
  • Locally sourced honey – This can be taken as pleasant drink mixed with hot water and fresh lemon juice.
  • Try and replace as much of your regular sugar intake with locally sourced honey.
  • Vitamin C, flavonoids – These act as antihistamines, this helps reduce nasal secretions. They can be found in foods such as berries, broccoli, citrus fruits and peppers.
  • Nettle – In the form of tea or capsules.
  • Liquorice – Helps fortify the body’s cortisol, thereby decreasing inflammation.

For more information or to book an appointment call Mary on 07778 613803

-Source: Earth Clinic Global Remedy Network
Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot /
Image: Danilo Rizzuti /

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