Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines

facial acupuncture

Is it a Headache or a Migraine?

Common tension headaches are often associated with upper back and neck tension, or temple or facial tension. Migraines are a type of headache that is more complex and severe than a tension headache, and has triggers unique to each individual. Migraines result in vascular (blood vessel) spasms in the brain itself and can often be quite debilitating. They may be associated with intense throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, sound or light sensitivity, visual auras, nausea, or other symptoms unique to each person.

Read about Migraines from The American Migraine Foundation

Acupuncture is a Good Alternative to Drugs for Treating Headaches and Migraines

Currently, there is no real cure for chronic migraines. One way to manage them is with medications, but these can have undesirable side effects. Acupuncture is an effective way to manage migraines, but without the side effects. Many of our migraine patients have experienced relief lasting weeks to months following a series of acupuncture treatments. Both migraines and common tension headaches can be managed very successfully through identifying triggers, modifying lifestyle and using medications and other therapies – such as acupuncture! Our knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate practitioners can help you gain some control over your headaches through our customized treatment plans.

Research has shown that a course of 3-8 acupuncture treatments can cut the frequency of migraines in half and that the benefits can last as long as 6 months following treatment. The authors of the review concluded that acupuncture was at least as effective as the drugs used to prevent migraines, but without the significant side effects of these drugs.

Our Approach in Acupuncture

To begin your treatment, your practitioner will assess the history and the nature of your headaches or migraines, as well as investigate holistically – taking you into account as a whole person – what factors in your life might be contributing to the headaches.

A customized acupuncture treatment plan will be developed with the goal of relieving the headaches or migraines. Many of our patients respond to treatment by feeling a complete, whole body relaxation and stress relief. Over the course of treatments, we also examine with you other health factors that may be related to triggering the headaches. The initial acupuncture sessions usually help to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Experiencing this relief naturally makes it easier to identify specific changes that can be made in your daily life to prevent headaches and migraines in the long term. 

Read Gord’s Blog on Tracking – The Last Straw Illusion

After we progress to where headaches come less often, you are in a better position to pay attention to the small cues that a headache may be coming. This is why we give tracking homework to help identify the triggers in between treatment sessions. We believe that integrating self-awareness and lifestyle change into the treatment plan is key to creating positive and lasting change.  

How Many Acupuncture Sessions Will I Need?

The number of acupuncture sessions needed to see improvement and lasting freedom from headaches and migraines varies with the individual. Acupuncture works cumulatively, that is, each session builds on the previous one. Generally speaking, a minimum of three treatments is needed in order to create noticeable improvements.

The initial treatments allow us to do some detective work with you to figure out what works best and tailor the treatment plan as needed.  As long as there is steady progress with treatments, especially when drugs have not been adequate, most patients with chronic headaches or migraines are very inspired to continue.  Even after becoming headache-free, many of our patients come back from time to time for prevention treatments.  Especially so if they experience the return of a former trigger or circumstances that had contributed to the headaches.

Read Gord’s Blog on Headaches and Migraines with Patient Testimonials

Our acupuncture practitioners are very skilled at creating customized treatment plans that work to relieve headaches and migraines – not just temporarily – but also to prevent them from returning over the months following treatments. The majority of our patients see a clear reduction in frequency and intensity of their headaches, and many become headache-free over time after following our treatment plans. 

Read FAQs about Acupuncture