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Migraine case studies from our acupuncture clinic in Washington DC

There’s nothing like living migraine-free after having these monster headaches! Here are a couple of real migraine patient cases and the outcomes from our acupuncture clinic.

Migraine Case Study 1) Patient “JC” came in for persistent migraines following medical leave, combined with stress, ulcers, insomnia and more.

“JC” came to the clinic with frequent severe migraines. Just off a medical leave from work (including an attempt to recover for a week in Costa Rica), she also had anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.

Stress levels at work and home with her husband had reached peak levels just before her medical leave, and due to the mind-body connection, her body was feeling the impact. Although rested, JC still had most of the physical symptoms in full force. And although she was going to weekly psychotherapy and had a personal meditation practice, JC had still been unable to find a deep sense of peace and inner relief.

The first 4-6 acupuncture treatments gave JC immediate, but short lasting relief from her migraine symptoms. Often she would come in with a migraine, and leave with a 50-100% reduction of pain and nausea symptoms. However, due to the levels of stress she was still experiencing, the symptoms would return within 24-48 hours.

After 12 acupuncture treatments, the frequency and intensity of the migraines diminished to the point where JC was able to stop her migraine medications.

JC’s anxiety was significantly reduced, and her dependence on the anti-anxiety drug Ativan was reducing as well. Additionally, through guidance in stress management skills in our Holistic Health Counseling sessions, JC was able to add key elements into her stress management routine.

After 20 treatments, JC no longer had migraines, but did have occasional tension headaches and high levels of neck pain and tension. Each acupuncture treatment was able to again reduce symptoms 50-100%, and give windows of 24-48 hours relief.

JC commented that on the acupuncture table, during a treatment, was one of the only times during her week when she actually felt stillness, calm and peace.

As JC continues acupuncture treatment and holistic health counseling, our hope is to help her experience longer and longer windows of pain-free living.

Migraine Case Study 2) Patient “RT” had 1.5-day migraines, weight gain, body aches and sinus issues

RT’s migraines started in undergrad, happening every two months or so. Four years later, with work stress reaching new heights, RT’s migraines had increased to three times per month, each lasting 1.5 days. Pain was in the right temple, and back left side of the head.

In addition to stress, the migraines seemed to be caused by consistent sinus pressure and sinus headaches, often resulting from seasonal allergies and weather changes. RT also had fatigue, body aches, and weight gain of 15 lbs due to lack of exercise, caused in part by the stress and increased migraine headache frequency.

To start, we asked RT to come in for acupuncture twice per week for 2 weeks. In addition to the acupuncture, we recommended an allergy elimination diet for three months due to the sinus pressure involvement in her migraines.

Within the first four sessions, RT commented that her migraines had turned into tension or sinus headaches. Each treatment would provide a 75-100% relief of her headache symptoms in the moment, with improvement windows of 1-3 days.

Within the next three months (18 treatments total), RT’s migraines and sinus headaches had reduced in frequency by 75%, her head and mental focus felt clearer, and her energy levels had gone up. With her newfound energy, she began exercising and had lost about 5 pounds.

Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for migraines

Because the underlying cause of migraines is not well understood, the treatments currently available involve a wide-acting range of pharmaceutical drugs with a plethora of side-effects.  

Current research shows that acupuncture is as effective or more effective than drug treatments, with no unwanted side-effects.  

Not only can acupuncture treatments provide in the moment relief from migraine pain, but they work very well as a preventative therapy against future attacks.

Acupuncture found to be as effective or more effective than traditional drug treatments in the prevention of migraines.

The following study analyzed 22 trials of acupuncture for migraine prevention, either as a single treatment or as a component of care.  The study found acupuncture to be as effective or more effective than traditional drug treatments in the prevention of migraines.  

Patients receiving acupuncture reported fewer headaches and side-effects than their counterparts who received standard care.

Cite: Cochrane – Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health – Acupuncture for preventing migraine attacks

Six weeks of acupuncture as effective as six months of preventative drug treatments for migraines

This analysis of multiple studies shows that a six-week course of acupuncture treatments is as effective as a six-month prophylactic drug treatment for the prevention of migraines, with far fewer side effects.  The authors of the study conclude that acupuncture should be a standard part of migraine therapy protocols.

Cite: US National Library of Medicine – Role of acupuncture in the treatment of migraine

Acupuncture provides significant pain relief with no side-effects

This study illustrates how acupuncture can be useful for pain relief in ophthalmic migraines and other types of difficult to treat pain syndromes. Empirical analgesic acupoints were used to provide significant symptom relief and no side-effects were noted.

Cite: US National Library of Medicine – Is acupuncture an useful tool for pain-treatment in ophthalmology?

What to do if you have migraines

If you live in the Washington DC area and are looking to heal migraines naturally (for either a current flare-up, preventative treatment, or both), we can help. Here’s what you can do:

About the Author

Jeremy Riesenfeld, L.AC., M.AC.

Jeremy was the founder of Transformational Acupuncture. He has a passion for helping people transform their lives and health in ways that are safe, gentle, and sustainable. Since 2004, he has successfully helped clients with a wide variety of emotional, mental, and physical health complaints.

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