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How to Relieve Migraines?

Migraine is the third most prevalent disease in the world, affecting three times as many women as men.  For women the higher rate is due to hormonal influences.

It is widely thought that migraine has a genetic cause.

Research shows that in the UK 190,00 migraines occur every day.

(www.migrainetrust.org)

Symptoms

·         Pain on one or both sides of your head

·         Throbbing or pulsing pain

·         Sensitivity to light, sound, even touch

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Blurred vision

·         Light headedness, sometimes fainting.

(www.mayoclinic.org)

Medication

Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are frequently used to reduce symptoms.  They can however, make migraines worse.  Ibuprofen is not recommended if patients have stomach ulcers or liver or kidney problems.  (www.nhs.uk)

Prescribed drugs

If prescribed drugs fail to work, GPs often prescribe Triptan medicines.  They cause the blood vessels in the brain to narrow.  This reverses the dilation of blood vessels that is thought to be the cause of migraine headaches.  These are often prescribed in conjunction with anti sickness medication.

Side effects

Can include, tightness, tingling, flushing, a feeling of heaviness in the face limbs or chest.

The NHS.UK website references NICE, (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence) who say that “a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over a five to eight week period, may be beneficial”.

Case History

Comparison of two patients with migraine being treated with Acupuncture

Patient 1

My patient had first appointment with me, she was experiencing a migraine every 5 days.  She needed to take at least one day off work a week.

The migraine affected the right side of her head and the temple region, the frequency increased as she became menopausal.

This patient also had trigeminal neuralgia, which complicated the migraine symptoms she had.  She had pain and numbness on the right side of the head, up one side of her neck and across her cheek to the sinuses.  It felt like her ears were blocked and she constantly needed to adjust them.

This patient had several impacts to her head.  Including a sledging accident when she was a child, a side impact in a car accident, a fall, where she broke 2 front teeth and the back door of the car came down onto the back of her head.  She feels these accidents contribute to the migraines and neuralgia.

She takes pain medication, which is beginning to affect her stomach.

This patient has only had 4 treatments with me to date, we spaced the treatments at two weeks apart.  I wanted to use minimal needles and did not want to use any near her head, because of the sensitivity she has there.

Treatment 1

She reported having no migraine for the first time in 2 years.  She hadn’t needed to take time off work.  She still had some numbness over the sinus area.

Treatment 2

Patient said she had the beginning of a headache.  She said she could take deep, clear breaths through her nose. She had not been able to do this for a while.

Treatment 3

The headache that she came with last week went after treatment, and that she hadn’t now had a migraine in 5-6 weeks.  She said that the trigeminal neuralgia symptoms of numbness and pain had improved, and she felt she was 60% better.

Treatment 4

Still no migraine, she may get a headache, but it hasn’t got any worse, and still hasn’t taken any time off work since starting acupuncture.  The area the trigeminal neuralgia affects was getting smaller and was now 80% better.  She feels much happier, less moody and more balanced. 

Case Study 2 

Patient 2

This patient came to me for treatment for Migraine, vertigo and dizziness.

She has suffered from migraines since she was 8 years old.  They were painful, throbbing, and always right sided.  After menopause, her migraines were less debilitating.

She has had vertigo and dizziness for three years.   She has a history of ear infections, and it is thought that an ear infection triggered the vertigo.   

There is a benign cyst in her brain.  Doctors say this does not contribute to her symptoms, but it is a cause of worry for her. 

Commuting into London is debilitating and she feels unsafe, since the onset of vertigo, she has had to work from home. Anxiety, tiredness and lack of sleep exacerbate her symptoms. 

Patient 2 initially, was prescribed two amitriptyline for migraine and vertigo.  She has been combining osteopathy, herbs and acupuncture.  I have been seeing this patient since May 2016 at two-week intervals.  Treatment progress is slow, but her history of migraine is long.

After having acupuncture initially, she felt less dizzy, had fewer headaches and they were less severe. These improvements lasted for up to a week.  

She reported having a better grasp on her emotions and felt less weepy.

Five months into the treatment, she said she had been able to do the weeding in the garden.  She has not been able to do this activity for a while.  Her headaches are still less in frequency and severity.

Ten months into treatment she was able to commute, working two days in a row.  The first time she managed this, she felt tired, but very pleased she’d made it in to work.  It helped her confidence and she enjoyed seeing her work colleagues.  She reduced the dose of amitriptyline to one and a half and takes it at an earlier time.  Hoping it will make her feel less groggy.

Eleven months into treatment we add two points in the ear to treat unwanted thoughts. Without the negative thought patterns, her sleep is improved. She is less dizzy and feels the vertigo is easier.  She thinks she is 85% improved.

Twelve months into treatment she has been able to reduce the dosage of amitriptyline to just one a day. Acupuncture is maintaining headaches.  She feels more positive, and really feels the ear points for unwanted thoughts contribute.  Sleep hasn’t been very good lately.

Fourteen months into treatment, she has reduced dosage of amitriptyline to half a tablet. Although it made her dizzy, first few nights, she will pursue this new dosage.  A work colleague died suddenly triggering some old symptoms, but still feels she can confidently say she is 90% better. Appointment times between acupuncture and herbs are now every three weeks.  She can now get to work twice a week.   She really only feels dizziness and vertigo if there is something to trigger old ways like anxiety and fatigue. It is becoming apparent that the weather is a factor too. 

Both of these migraine patients had another condition that complicated treatment.  One had dizziness and vertigo and the other had trigeminal neuralgia.  Both patients took pain medication and found that whilst it did help with migraine, it did leave them with unpleasant side effects. One had stomach problems and the other said it made her feel groggy. 

They were both keen for acupuncture to help them with their migraine symptoms, which it did.  Each reported that the severity and frequency had reduced.  They were therefore able to reduce their pain medication and take less time off work.  The severity of migraine in each of these patients was quite high, they were both very happy not to be feeling so ill, so often.

It has been a pleasure seeing both of these ladies re-gain their confidence and take control over their migraine pain using acupuncture. 

Written by Liz Xerri, Acupuncturist 

If you would like to find out more about how Acupuncture can help relieve migraines or would like a chat with Liz, contact us on 0208 9423148

Liz consults at the clinic every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

 

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