Welcome to the world of traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Migraines can be unbearable and debilitating, but Traditional Chinese Medicine has long been rumoured to help; and now, new scientific research backs this up; as revealed by acupuncturist Claire Mash.
If you’ve ever had a migraine, you’ll know all about it. That skull-splitting pain, flashing lights and attendant nausea is unmistakable. They are also more common in women, and very often go hand on hand with the menstrual cycle. Painkillers often barely touch the sides, however acupuncture can help. Traditional Chinese medicine is proven to be an effective way to treat stress/tension headaches, migraine headaches and PMS headaches, which the World Health Organisation, no less has agreed with since 1979!
Here’s how it works: acupuncture ensures energy (Qi) and the blood is flowing freely, without blockages that can cause pain. As an ancient classical Chinese text says “Where there is pain, there is no flow; when there is flow, there is no pain”. When inserted, the needles help normalise brain activity, by stimulating the brain’s pituitary gland and triggering painkilling endorphins. It’s also why some patients feel extremely energised after acupuncture, as if they’ve just had a great workout.
In March, the British Medical Journal reported that 147 patients, all aged around 37, who had a history of episodic migraines without aura undertook acupuncture, for the first time in their lives. Half of them received 20 sessions of genuine acupuncture, while the other half received a placebo (non-penetrating needles). After eight weeks, and 12 weeks of follow-up treatment, those patients who had received the real thing, had around 3.9 fewer days in which they had a migraine in a four-week space, compared with 2.2 fewer days for those who’d had the fake treatment, and fewer migraine attacks in total.
Dr Wei Wang, a professor of neurology at Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, China, led the study and says “Taking pills is definitely much easier than acupuncture treatment. But for patients who want to avoid drugs, and those who take several drugs with potential interactions, acupuncture might be a first choice.” Acupuncture had "resulted in a significantly higher reduction in the frequency of migraine days and migraine attacks”.
In an accompanying BMJ editorial, Dr Heather Angus-Leppan, a consultant neurologist at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, said Wang’s study "helps to move acupuncture from having an unproven status in complementary medicine to an acceptable evidence-based treatment… We now have good evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for episodic migraine.”
Twice a week for a fortnight has been found to be the ideal recommended treatment dose for migraines, followed up by one treatment a week for eight weeks, and then one maintenance treatments every other week after that.