Migraines are a bully: the pain they cause is destructive and there is no shortage of studies linking the chronic migraine sufferer with depression and lower quality of life. Though the physiological cause is unknown, there is a standard process: at the beginning, oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain is restricted creating tertiary symptoms such as tingling or sensory sensitivity. When oxygen is inhibited, neurotransmitters are released, causing rebound dilation: blood vessels expand and blood flow is increased. This over dilation causes the intense, throbbing pain that is associated with migraines.
Acupuncture needling generally involves insertion and manipulation of thin needles in specific points to promote blood flow through the tissues in a process known as axon reflex. Because migraine pain is linked to the dilation of blood vessels in the head, creating this effect through needling could exacerbate symptoms. Therefore, we take a different approach when treating someone in the throes of migraine pain.
Acupoints in the head, neck, and to a certain extent, the upper body, are to be avoided. In order to avoid promoting increased blood circulation in the head, we focus on points in the lower body, including the arms and legs. Furthermore, as needling is usually done in a prone position, we treat the migraine sufferer in a recumbent position, to allow their body to exert greater control over blood vessel dilation. If deemed appropriate, an electrical current can be attached to the needles to help with constricting vasodilation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used in the treatment of headaches for thousands of years. At Community Chiropractic and Acupuncture in Brooklyn, our treatment is gentle and non-invasive and there are very few side effects in comparison to pharmaceutical and over the counter drugs. Acupuncture is not a cure-all in the quest to conquer migraine pain; it is, however, another tool that can be used to lessen the hold of migraines on your daily life and improve your overall well-being. Call our office in Park Slope today at (718) 398-3100 if you are interested in learning how acupuncture can be used to manage your migraine pain.
Dr. Karen Thomas, D.C. L.Ac.