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Acupuncture for Migraine Relief: Why Putting a Needle in Your Head Pain Might Just Be the Answer

Migraines. They’re awful. Intense throbbing, pulsing headaches, with the added fun of nausea, vomiting, light-sensitivity, and perhaps even some numbness to make you REALLY regret ever leaving the house. If you’ve never suffered one yourself, let the fact that googling the term and it immediately auto-filling in the search box to “can you die from a migraine headache?” speak for itself.  

Migraines are complicated, and frequently occur because of multiple triggers. But research shows, acupuncture may be the knight in shining armor your poor head has been looking for.

The Cochrane review (which, if you’re unfamiliar, is the Holy Grail of unbiased research committees) collected and reviewed the various trials that had been conducted on migraine patients being treated with consistent acupuncture. After pouring over 23 trials and the results of 4,985 participants, they ended up drawing some very cool conclusions.

For one, and probably the MOST important take-home point, throwing acupuncture into the mix when a patient is suffering from a migraine has been shown to reduce their frequency of headaches. In most studies, frequency of occurrence after treatment HALVED. As in, 50%. Ask anyone who suffers from head-splitting episodes like these: a reduction like that makes a HUGE difference.

It was also concluded that, when patients were given a thoughtful, legitimate treatment versus “placebo” acupuncture, their results were better. Seems like a simple statement (and one that might be followed with “well, duh”) but what this tells us is that patients weren’t just getting better because someone was paying attention to them and poking them with needles all willy-nilly. The treatment ITSELF was causing a positive effect.

Lastly, they found that it seems that acupuncture works equally as effective as pharmaceuticals prescribed for prophylactic, aka preventative, treatment of migraines. This suggests that migraine sufferers who want to prevent episodes can make the choice to rely on more non-pharmaceutical based care like acupuncture treatment without feeling like they’re sacrificing results or safety. It’s great to get confirmation that this treatment is a viable option, especially when you consider that the studies that compared acupuncture to pharmaceuticals were plagued with a greater number of drug-treated participants vs. acupuncture patients dropping out because of complaints of adverse effects from treatment. Equally effective treatment + less side effects= happier patients.

So there you have it. The proof is in the (needled) pudding. If you’re interested in acupuncture care for your episodic migraines, find a licensed acupuncturist in your area to see if this treatment would be right for you! #acupuncture #migraines #naturopathicdoctor #naturopathicmedicine #TCM


  • Da Silva, A. N. (2015). Acupuncture for migraine prevention. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 55(3), 470-473.

  • Linde, K., Allais, G., Brinkhaus, B., Fei, Y., Mehring, M., Vertosick, E. A., ... & White, A. R. (2016). Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. The Cochrane Library.


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