Recently the American Migraine Foundation published a recommendation that migraine patients consider trying acupuncture for their migraines.
The research that prompted this endorsement revealed that acupuncture treatment reduced the frequency of migraines by at least 50% and the results lasted for at least six months.
Think about that for a minute. If your life was routinely interrupted by painful, disorienting, debilitating migraine headaches and you knew a drug-free treatment could successfully cut your migraine episodes in half and the results would last for at least six months, how excited would you be?
Our own experience has been even better than that. We have found in numerous cases the migraines may be able to be stopped cold in their tracks. Other research has shown that the results of acupuncture treatment for all forms of headache can be shown to last more than a year.
Others have found similar results: “Two randomized controlled trials have shown that the relief of migraine headache lasted 1 year after acupuncture treatment – thousands of times longer than the physiological half-life of endorphin. Similar long-term benefits have been shown by randomized controlled trials in acupuncture treatment of chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis.” — Charles Shang, MD, Baylor College of Medicine.
The results we have seen for migraine patients (and for patients with other types of headaches such as tension or sinus-related headaches) have been even greater than expected. Patients respond very favorably in most cases.
Medical resources have been embracing the impressive results of acupuncture more recently. The Harvard Health Blog made the statement, “Individual large-scale clinical studies have consistently demonstrated that acupuncture provided better pain relief compared with usual care.” – Helene Langevin, MD, and Carolyn Bernstein, MD, post from Jan. 25, 2018.
Medical acupuncturist Albrecht Molsberger, MD, wrote an editorial concerning a recent study on acupuncture in the Canadian Medical Association Journal: “Acupuncture should be an option for the first-line treatment of migraine to supplement other non-(drug) treatment options,”
In my experience acupuncture has been nothing short of remarkable in providing effective, lasting relief for patients without the use of pharmaceuticals. Being able to alleviate the side effects of the routine drugs used to treat migraines is a win in and of itself.
These types of medical endorsements are not without opposing viewpoints. Keeping in mind that essentially all of the funding for medical studies, medical organizations and medical education arises from or is associated with the profits of Big Pharma, it is not surprising that any treatment that is poised to be considered effective without the use of expensive drugs will be opposed.
Pharmaceutical industry paid critics find ways to shoot arrows at anything that could possibly impact pharmaceutical industry profits just as political opponents stand ready to vehemently oppose anything their opponents say.
The truth is, however, that many patients have found reliable, lasting improvement in their migraines and have been able to reduce or eliminate their use of preventive and abortive migraine medications.
Acupuncture results are somewhat dependent upon the training and more importantly the experience of the provider. Whereas a drug will have the same effect no matter who prescribes it, a treatment such as acupuncture is largely dependent upon the skill and experience of the person that actually administers the treatment.
Acupuncture can be intimidating to many patients that have never experienced it. Funny jokes and cartoons abound on the internet showing the patient being stuck with hundreds of needles.
The reality in our office is that patients experience remarkably comfortable, pleasant treatment that is often the best part of their week. The so-called “needles” that we use are not like any other type of needle used in medical care. It often surprises the patient that the insertions are done with virtually no pain and there is absolutely no blood when the needles are withdrawn.
Although most conditions require a series of 8-20 treatments for optimal benefit, most patients with migraines will begin to see positive results right away.
Patients often ask as they begin to see a decrease in their frequency and intensity of headaches whether the results will last or if they will need to continue acupuncture forever. Obviously results vary from one person to another, but generally what we see is that the positive benefits of the acupuncture typically last for months to years.
As illustrated by Dr. Shang in the reference above, the benefits of acupuncture last thousands of times longer that drugs.
It is time for medical acupuncture to play a more critical role in the primary treatment of migraine headaches.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com.