The Ultimate Guide to Acupuncture for Migraines

Your search for a migraine prevention that works, has brought you to considering acupuncture.

Yet you are nervous, cause after all someone would be sticking needles in you – not exactly at the top of everyone’s enjoyment list.

Don’t fear!  Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine and may help you successfully manage your migraines.

One of the best ways to feel more relaxed and ready for something is to know exactly what you are getting into. So we are going to do just that, give you the basics of what it is and what you should expect when having acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a Chinese medicine that helps you balance your energy.   It is based on the idea that when our energy flows freely through the body we are healthy, yet when our energy becomes blocked it causes illness.

One of the things that happens when they insert these needles is that blood rushes to the area, it starts to release endorphins and blood flow increases.

Does Acupuncture Really Work for Preventing Migraines

As with most things migraine related – it depends!  I know that gets old, but it really is the case.

The studies that have been done have been small in number and also most of them small in sample size.  However, on the good news side the outcome from most of the studies show that it increases the pain relief and reduces severity of the symptoms.  They have also been show to only work for a potion of the participants.

Unfortunately my experience was not a positive outcome for my migraines but it did help with some other things!

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

When you go for your first appointment you typically will fill out a questionnaire just like you do in other doctor’s offices.  However this one tends to ask some questions that the other doctors just might not ask.

Go ahead and fill everything out, and don’t start worrying about what you might think is irrelevant.

One of the goals of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to have a complete and balanced person.  The questionnaire helps them create this balance.  They also believe that everything is connected, so what might be irrelevant to you could be the answer they were looking for to relieve your pain.

Once you’ve filled that out you will typically go over it with your acupuncturist, where they might also ask you follow up questions.

Then you will typically lay down on a table to start the process.   The practitioner will insert small needles at various points along your energy paths that they believe are blocked.  They may first put light pressure on spots to make sure they get the right area.  For example, they might push down on a few spots along your calf and ask which is the most tender.

As they insert the needles you may find a slight tingling or pinch, but usually no pain.

Once the needles have been inserted you will typically lay there for a bit while the needles to do their work.  This could be 10 – 30 minutes.  When I first started I was a bit of a type A can’t slow down person and also very nervous about the process, so my practitioner started me with 1o minutes and slowly worked me up to longer time periods over my sessions.  Don’t be afraid to ask for less time.

Once your rest time has been completed, the acupuncture practitioner will come in and remove the needles and you’re done.

What to look for in a Practitioner

You want to look for an acupuncturist who is licensed and has extensive training.  You want to confirm that they didn’t take a weekend course to add on to their training in another field. Look for somebody that acupuncture is main focus.

Even better is if you can find somebody who has a master’s in Chinese medicine, they will have a lot more knowledge than those that have a short course on the practice.

If they offered dentists the option to go to three years of school or to do a weekend course, which dentist would you pick?

I know from my personal experience that the skill level of an acupuncturist is hugely important.  I personally have been to three different ones and saw zero benefits with one, some mild benefits with another, and then the third practitioner was absolutely amazing.

Good to Know

  • Not an instant relief tool.   Acupuncture is something that requires multiple sessions and eventually wears off.   You want to anticipate doing at least six sessions and you never want them to be about more than two weeks apart.
  • If you do get benefits, but then stop you might lose some of the benefits that you were enjoying.  It is something that must be sustained over time.  You might be able to go longer between sessions, but eventually the benefits wear off.
  • Many acupuncturists will also try and put you on vitamins and herbs.  Do what feels right to you when deciding to use these – and check with your regular doctor if you decide to do so.

Keep in mind that it does work for some and not for others. It might be worth giving a try and seeing if it works.   Worst case scenario you get a little relaxation time and you might even heal something else that you never realized.