Oh my aching head

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), most migraines are caused by an upward counter flow of qi to the head.

by Michelle Burton — 

According to the National Headache Foundation, as many as 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches each year.

One of the most common questions from people inquiring about acupuncture is whether it can help alleviate the debilitating pain of migraine headaches. The answer is yes. Acupuncture can be a very effective tool in the struggle to decrease the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. For many patients, it can extinguish them altogether.

According to Western medicine, the cause of migraines is unknown, and their mechanisms are poorly understood. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), most migraines are caused by an upward counter flow of qi to the head.

TCM does not recognize migraines and recurring headaches as one particular syndrome. Instead, because each patient presents with their own unique combination of Chinese medical disease mechanisms, the first step in treating migraines with acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a personalized pattern discrimination, which allows the practitioner to determine the precise combination of therapies for each patient.

This combination of therapies may consist of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tui-na massage, dietary and lifestyle modifications, and energetic exercises to restore imbalances in the body and treat the underlying root of the condition.

A study conducted by Dr. Wolfgang Baischer, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vienna, showed that the improvements achieved by acupuncture therapy are stable over a long period of time. During a five-week observation period, the participants’ frequency of migraine attacks was significantly reduced immediately after treatment, and remained low in a three-year follow-up period. Use of pain medications was also reduced by half.

Today, acupuncture is an acknowledged and respected field of medicine that requires formal training and certification in order to practice.

Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are arts and sciences that take years to master. Look specifically for an acupuncturist with training and experience in the treatment of headaches and migraines.


Michelle Burton, M.S.Ac., Dipl.Ac. (NCCAOM), L.Ac., treats a wide range of health problems using traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. She specializes in pediatrics, women’s health, vocal disorders, stress and insomnia in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number , December 2008/January 2009.

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