Migraine and headache sufferers know all too well how the pain can disrupt them everyday lives. I see many migraine patients each week who have deal with crippling pain for years (some well over 10 to 20 years) with little relief from medications. I am happy to report that with weekly acupuncture treatments, many of my patients see a reduction in the number of migraines as well as a decrease in the intensity and some are relieved of the headaches altogether!

The current theory from a western perspective about the mechanism behind the pain and other symptoms of migraines, revolves around a disturbance and inflammation of the blood vessels surrounding the brain, particularly the temporal artery. Changes in the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin have also been investigated as causes of migraines. Migraines are known to involve the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) and this causes symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, pallor and cold hands and / or feet. A family history of migraines is usually present in a significant number of sufferers and women are more likely to experience migraines than men.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, migraines can be caused by a variety of imbalances, but very often involving the Liver and Gallbladder (Wood) meridians. Treatment of migraines is based on an individual diagnosis like every other disorder or condition treated by acupuncture. Diagnosis involves examining specific migraine triggers, the characteristics of the headaches, the location of the pain, and medical history. Each treatment plan is tailor to treat both the root (cause) of the headaches as well as the manifestations (symptoms).

I recommend that my patients keep a journal on what they may be feeling or experiencing, as well as track triggers such as rich foods, computer overload, menstrual cycle, changes in temperatures, allergies, emotions, changes in air pressure etc. This makes it much easier to create an effective treatment plan and helps my patients gain control and come up with preventive measures. If you are a migraine sufferer and have tried medications and other treatment methods with no relief, acupuncture is a viable option that might be right for you. Here are some acupuncture points you can access that might help you the next time you are hit with an intense headache:

* At the first glimmer of a migraine, apply a hot towel (wring a towel in boiling water or place a damp towel in microwave) and apply it to the back of the neck (GB20 & UB10). Some patients prefer an ice pack so see what helps you.

* If you are hit with a full blown migraine, apply acupressure to the ankles (UB60 & UB 67). It is best to avoid the head and neck area if you are having a current attack.

* Avoid build up of stagnant Qi in the neck and shoulder by making postural adjustments and movements throughout the day. Make sure to take time during your day to stretch and breathe deeply.