Researchers are exploring so-called complementary approaches to headache relief, which can include anything from massage, to dietary supplements, spinal manipulation, and mind-body interventions (think relaxation training, biofeedback, and acupuncture). Among these, research findings have shown promise for acupuncture, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice used to treat chronic pain (including that from tension headaches and migraine).

Acupuncture Research Findings

One review of two large trials involving people with tension headaches concluded that supplementing painkiller medication with acupuncture was more effective than medication alone as treatment. Another review, which gathered results of two large and three small trials, all comparing acupuncture with sham treatments, found acupuncture to be more effective (though, only slightly) at relieving tension headaches. Yet another review determined that adding acupuncture to acute or routine migraine care can slash migraine frequency and intensity. When performed by qualified, competent practitioners using sterile needles, acupuncture is considered safe, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Additionally, few complications have been reported and serious side effects are rare.

What Is Acupuncture

During acupuncture, several thin needles are inserted into specific targeted points in the body.  In Chinese Medicine, energy (which is referred to as qi, chi, or life force) is thought to flow through pathways, or meridians, of the body. But this flow can become disrupted and blocked. An acupuncture session is believed to be re-balance and restore the body’s natural energy flow by inserting needles into strategic points. According to Mayo Clinic, Western practitioners believe that these points may stimulate muscles, nerves, and connective tissue, thereby boosting the body’s own natural pain relievers.

How To Find An Acupuncturist

What’s key is locating a licensed acupuncture practitioner. In addition to asking friends for referrals, you can also scout a nearby licensed acupuncturist (look for the credential L.Ac.) at the Find A Practitioner tab on the website for the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Or, search the Acupuncture Referral Service’s website  by doing an advanced search by zip code and by specialty (headache/migraine). In this directory, practitioners appear with a photograph and are listed by credentials, specialties, memberships to professional societies and associations, as well as by office locations. Before booking an appointment, ask if the practitioner has experience treating those with migraine or tension headaches. According to the Acupuncture Referral Service, expect a session to range in price anywhere from from $60 to $120.

Have You tried acupuncture to ease migraines?