Migraine is a primary headache disorder manifesting as recurring attacks, usually lasting for 4 to 72 hours and involving pain of moderate to severe intensity.Typical characteristics of the headache are unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate or severe intensity, and aggravation by routine physical activity. Sufferers may also experience auras, photophobia, phono-phobia, nausea and vomiting. Migraine is a common disorder; a UK study found the migraine incidence rate to be 3.69 cases per 1,000 person-years, and to be around 2.5 times higher in women than men (Becker 2008).
Many people with migraine can be adequately treated when the attacks occur, but some need prophylactic interventions, as their attacks are either too frequent or are insufficiently controlled in this way. Several drugs, such as beta-blockers, amitriptyline or sodium valproate are used in the prophylaxis of migraine in an attempt to reduce attack frequency, but all these drugs are associated with adverse effects (DTB 1998).
How Acupuncture can help.
There have now been many controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine, with some large, high-quality ones in recent years. The results of the latest reviews are quite consistent: acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment/basic care for managing migraine, and appears to be at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy, with few contraindications or unpleasant side effects (Linde 2009, Wang 2008, Sun 2008, Scott 2008). Acupuncture has a similar or slightly better effect than sham procedures, which themselves can perform as well as conventional drugs, indicating that sham acupuncture is not an inactive placebo but a contentious alternative intervention. Acupuncture has been found to be cost-effective (Witt 2008; Wonderling 2004). As well as prevention it may also be used to alleviate symptoms in acute attacks (Li 2009). There is preliminary qualitative evidence from patients that acupuncture can increase coping mechanisms as well as relieve migraine symptoms (Rutberg 2009).
Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health. Its benefits are now widely acknowledged all over the world and in the past decade traditional acupuncture has begun to feature more prominently in mainstream healthcare in the UK. In conjunction with needling, the practitioner may use techniques such as moxibustion, cupping, massage or electro-acupuncture. They may also suggest dietary or lifestyle changes.
If you are having acupuncture, make sure they are a full member of the British Acupuncture Council. BAcC acupuncturists have degree level qualifications and adhere to codes of safe practice and professional conduct in order to be registered and insured by the British Acupuncture Council. The Council guarantees excellence in training, safe practice and professional conduct so patients are advised to look for a practitioner who has full British Acupuncture Council membership.
Duncan Ford is a full Member of the British Acupuncture Council, to talk to Duncan about acupuncture and what it can do for you call him on 07714575720, or to book an appointment call 01780 480889 or drop into the Broad street Practice in Stamford.
Becker C et al. Migraine incidence, comorbidity and health resource utilisation in the UK. Cephalalgia 2008;28:57-64.
Managing migraine. Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin 1998;36:41-44
Linde K et al. Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009 Issue 1. Art.No.: CD001218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub2
Sun Y, Gan TJ. Acupuncture for the management of chronic headache: a systematic review. Anesth Analg 2008;107:2038-47.
Wang YY, Zheng Z, Xue CCL Acupuncture for Migraine. Austral J Acupunc Chin Med 2008;3(1):1-16
Scott SW, Deare JC. Acupuncture for migraine: a systematic review.
Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine 2006;1:3-14.
Wonderling D, Vickers AJ, Grieve R, McCarney R. Cost effectiveness analysis of a randomised trial of acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care. BMJ. 2004 Mar 27;328(7442):747.