Migraines are a specific type of headache that lasts 4-72 hours, throbbing in nature and moderate to severe in intensity, often initially one-sided, and worse with exertion. Migraines may also be associated with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. In order to be diagnosed as suffering from migraines, one only needs to experience 3-4 of these symptoms. Currently, it is estimated that 24 million Americans have migraines. They occur more in women than men and mostly between 10-40 years of age. More than 50% of migraineurs have a family history of this disorder.


According to Western medicine, the cause of migraines is unknown and their mechanisms are poorly understood. Triggers include cycling oestrogens, insomnia, changes in barometric pressure, and hunger. While there is a widespread belief that certain foods, such as chocolate, cheese, and red wine, may trigger migraines, research has not confirmed this belief.


As each patient presents with their own unique combination of Chinese medical disease mechanisms, the first step in treating migraines with acupuncture is to get a detailed medical history. It is detailed medical history which allows the acupuncture practitioner to determine the exact right combination of the hundreds of acupuncture points and devise a personalised treatment protocol. In addition to acupuncture, often diet and lifestyle modifications to treat the underlying root of the condition may be recommended. Acupuncture may be used either preventively or remedially during an acute attack. Often, acupuncture can halt or decrease migraine pain within minutes of insertion of the needles.


Scores of research studies have been conducted on the Chinese medical treatment of migraines. These studies confirm that Chinese medicine, both acupuncture and Chinese herbs, are safe and effective for this type of headache. The following are just a few examples of this voluminous research. Wang Xian-qi and Sun Qing treated 52 cases of recalcitrant migraines as described in New Chinese Medicine (#7, 1996). Using this protocol, 36 cases were cured, and another 13 cases improved for a total amelioration rate of 94.2%. Huang Cheng-yun, writing in Heilongjiang Medicine & Medicinals (#5, 1996), described his treatment of 36 cases of migraine. Twenty-four of these cases were cured and the other 12 all improved for a 100% effective rate. Bai Hui-min treated 65 cases of migraine with acupuncture (Tianjin College of Chinese Medicine Journal, #2, 1996). Twenty-two cases were cured, 29 cases got a marked effect, and 11 cases improved for atotal amelioration rate of 95.3%.

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