Migraine headaches are debilitating for people suffering from them. They are a significant medical condition and have a great effect on the quality of life. Sufferers see a decline in work productivity, with many having to take time off work to recover from the pain. Options for treatment include pain medication, meditation, massage, relaxation exercises and acupuncture.
In a previous blog, we discussed how research has shown that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches. A research review by Charlie Xue, PhD in 2009 concluded that acupuncture was helpful for tension type headaches and migraines.
A recent research review states that while acupuncture has been shown to decrease the frequency of migraines, decrease the pain and severity of migraines, and increase the quality of life of migraine sufferers, little is known about the physiological effect of acupuncture. This study attempted to show how acupuncture affects the pain centres in the brain.
Study participants were given MRIs of the brain to see what affect acupuncture had. The MRIs identified certain areas of the brain that had decreased activity compared to non-migraine sufferers. After acupuncture treatments, the anterior cortex of the brain, which plays a significant role in pain control, was significantly more active, and patients reported a large decrease in the migraine pain. Other areas of the brain were also seen to be more active.
The study concludes that acupuncture is a valid treatment that decreases the frequency, duration, and severity of the migraine, and had a positive impact on the patients’ quality of life.