Acupuncture as part of Migraine Treatment?

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Recent research has shown that acupuncture can be more effective than conventional drug therapy for migraine treatment. Read more below on how there is a solution!

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Acupuncture and migraine treatment: Is it an effective treatment for chronic migraines?

If you suffer from chronic migraines you probably have explored every option under the sun but have you considered, acupuncture and migraine treatment?

Most do not initially explore acupuncture as viable treatment option (for many reasons). One being doctors usually recommend drugs as first line treatment and rarely refer to acupuncture, only for a “last resort.” Secondly, most do not seek it out just simply because they cant understand how it works.

There are many explanations of why acupuncture works.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points can stimulate the nervous system to release endorphins, causing pain signals to be calmed and bringing oxygen and blood to the area that was stimulated. This increase in blood and oxygen causes the muscle fibers to relax and encourages the natural healing process of the body to take place.

No, seriously, how does acupuncture work?

It also explains how an acupuncturist locates certain acupuncture points. Tension tends to concentrate in certain areas. When a muscle is in spasm or is chronically tense, the fibers contract due to the secretion of lactic acid. This secretion can be caused by overuse of the muscle, fatigue, stress, poor circulation, or trauma. When an acupuncture needle is placed in a point, the muscle fibers relax and tension dissipates. Thus, pressing or stimulating specific points can lead to a decrease in symptoms, such as pain, headaches, digestive issues, and many other common conditions.

What does the research say?

Many critics argue that acupuncture does not work because there is a lack of scientific evidence.

This is just not the case anymore.

Not only are there more and more valid studies showing that acupuncture works but also many studies pointing to HOW it works.

However, from what we know about studies, it is hard to conduct a trial on acupuncture. Acupuncture is different from any other form of medicine that the Western world is used to, and it is difficult to quantify.

Individualized care

In essence, acupuncture is very individualized and difficult to replicate in a double-blind placebo controlled model. The very concept of acupuncture and how it works may be hard for some people to comprehend, and to put acupuncture into a research model system is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. The underlying concept behind acupuncture is based upon whole body medicine and the idea that everything is interconnected in the mind and body. No wonder it’s hard to put into a research model and prove that it works!

That being said, what does the research say?

Recent research into the efficacy of acupuncture as treatment for and prevention of migraines has shown that acupuncture can be more effective than conventional drug therapy. Several trials were examined that showed acupuncture decreased the frequency of migraines while also decreasing the intensity. A link was also found between acupuncture and the biological mechanisms that relieve pain.

Acupuncture can stimulate the body’s release of adenosine as well as endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, and this stimulation may be linked to acupuncture’s role in the treatment and prevention of migraines (CMi, 2014). Another study found electro-acupuncture outperformed the drug flunarizine in the treatment and prevention of migraines (Vijayalakshmi, 2013).

Let’s look at another study

Another study examined prior research showing that acupuncture combined with Chinese herbs was more effective at treating vascular headaches than drugs were. The meta-analysis examined 25 randomized and controlled trials with a sample size of 3,004 patients. Results showed that patients receiving acupuncture had comparable relief from headaches when compared with patients receiving drug therapy, and acupuncture treatment actually outperformed results for the sham group (Health CMi, 2014).

Can acupuncture outperform migraine drugs?

The previous research into the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for migraines concluded that acupuncture is comparable to modern drugs for treatment of migraines, especially in combination with Chinese herbal medicine. The acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment outperformed nimodipine, a drug prescribed for frequent headaches. These studies suggest that if you suffer from migraine and/or vascular headaches, acupuncture alone or acupuncture in combination with Chinese herbal medicine can provide relief and may be more effective than drugs (Health CMi, 2014; Scott, 2006).

The research described above is promising for anyone who regularly suffers from migraines as they can be debilitating and excruciating. And it’s yet another reason why treating the underlying cause is key to the prevention and treatment of migraines and headaches.


Give me a call today (425) 686-4498 to learn more about how to find a solution for migraines!

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Most insurances accepted. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon.


CMi, H. (2014, December 14). Acupuncture Migraine Remedy Found. Retrieved September 7, 2015, from Health CMi:

Health CMi. (2014, July 9). Acupuncture and Herbs Best Pharmaceutical For Headaches. Retrieved September 7, 2015, from Health CMi: Healthcare Medicine Institute:

Vijayalakshmi, e. a. (2013). Comparison of effectivenes of acupuncture therapy and conventional drug therapy on psychological profile of migraine patients. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology , 58 (1), 69-76.

Scott, S. e. (2006). Acupuncture for migraine: a systemic review. Aust J Acupunct Chin Med , 1 (1), 3-14.

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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