TCM for Headaches & Migraines

By Pacific College - January 6, 2015

Migraine sufferers seek help from acupuncture clinics on a daily basis.  Many find that this method of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers symptom relief unparalleled by oral medications.  This ancient therapy is becoming more widespread in the 21st century and can replace expensive arsenals of medications including prophylactics, tricyclic agents, muscle relaxants, beta-blockers, and painful injections.  Patients who know their onset symptoms can even use acupuncture to avert severe headaches.

Statistics show that approximately 70 millions Americans report suffering from recurring headaches.  More than 25 million of these victims have been diagnosed with migraines.  Traditional Chinese Medicine can supplement, or in some cases replace, Western medicine as a means for these patients to function normally from day-to-day.  TCM has the advantage of being linked to none of the unwanted side effects that come with traditional drug prescriptions.

The Mechanism of Acupuncture in Treating Headaches and Migraines

The philosophy behind TCM revolves around the balance of the Yin and Yang, utilizing our vital energy (Qi) as it traverses the system of meridians in our body.  The Yang energy tends to flow up and away from our core.  Since the Yang meridians intersect in the head, a deficiency of Qi here indicates a blockage of the Yang meridians and can cloud our mind and cause pain or headaches.  Acupuncture works to clear these blockages, harmonizing our organs, and reestablishing a balance of Yin and Yang.

A skilled practitioner uses thin needles to apply pressure to various acupuncture points along the skin.  This technique is especially effective for relieving tension in muscles around the neck and shoulders.  The treatment is repeated twice a week for a month or so until the pain relief becomes long-lasting.

Scientific Insights into Acupuncture’s Effectiveness for Migraine Relief

A series of clinical trials that date back as far as 1970 shed some light as to the mechanism behind the relief that acupuncture provides.  Researchers have found that acupuncture can be used to regulate serotonin and other neurotransmitters in our body.  Low serotonin levels leave patients more vulnerable to migraines, so acupuncture is used to speed the release of serotonin in the brain and spinal cord.  Furthermore, biochemical studies revealed that acupuncture affects acetylcholinesterase activity in the blood, magnesium concentrations in blood serum, and endogenous opioid release in the central nervous system, all of which reduce the symptoms of migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.

Additionally, Dr. Jisheng Han discovered the electrically stimulated acupuncture needles release endorphins into the central nervous system.  These natural pain killers are responsible for the lessening of headache pain, and are being further studied at the acupuncture research program for Acupuncture-induced Analgesia (AA) in China.

An article published by Capobianco et al in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings of 1996 indicated that migraine headaches are affecting a 60% larger population every decade.  The estimated economic losses due to inhibited productivity are as high as $17.2 million annually.  Acupuncture has now been established as an effective and drug-free means of managing migraines and the corresponding symptoms.  Additionally, TCM offers a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Qi Gong therapies that can be personalized for each patient, resulting in a more effective treatment of his or her condition.

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