Can acupuncture help with migraines?

Dec 2, 2023

Lets Talk About Acupuncture

What are migraines?

If you experience migraines or another type of headache, you are one among many. Research
shows that as many as one billion people worldwide have migraine, making it the third most
prevalent illness in the world. They are a common and often-debilitating condition and are
characterized by recurrent episodes of severe headaches, accompanied by other symptoms such
as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The condition can significantly impact a
person’s quality of life, leading to missed work, social isolation, and depression.

How can migraines be treated?
There are several treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms associated
with migraines and prevent future episodes. These include medication, lifestyle changes and
alternative therapies such as acupuncture.

What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese medicine that has been in practice for over 2,500
years. It involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body known as
acupuncture points. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including
migraines. The practice is based on the idea that the body has a system of channels or meridians
through which vital energy, or qi, flows. When these channels become blocked or disrupted, it can
lead to various physical and emotional imbalances. The practice has been gaining popularity in
recent years as a complementary therapy for the treatment of various conditions, including
chronic migraines.

What happens during an assessment?
At Pro Health Physio, we’ll first assess you to make sure there isn’t another cause for your
migraines. Cervicogenic headaches are common and often misdiagnosed. Migraines and
cervicogenic headaches are both types of headaches, but have different underlying causes and
symptoms. Migraines are a neurological condition that involves a complex interplay of genetic,
environmental, and physiological factors, resulting in recurrent episodes of severe, throbbing
head pain, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
Cervicogenic headaches, on the other hand, arise from dysfunction or irritation of the neck or
upper cervical spine, such as a pinched nerve or a muscle strain, and are characterised by pain
that starts in the neck and radiates into the head, typically on one side with a dull or achy

sensation. Diagnosis and treatment differ depending on the specific type of headache and its
underlying cause.

Acupuncture, generally, is a very safe treatment method, but there are some conditions where we
would have to adjust where we insert needles or would be unable to offer it at all, although this is

What happens during a treatment session?
During a treatment session, we need to make sure we can get access to the acupuncture points
while keeping you comfortable. This is often completed in sitting, or lying on your front or back.
You discuss this with your physio if you think this might be difficult for you. Needles are then
inserted into specific acupuncture points along the meridians to stimulate the flow of qi and
restore balance to the body. The treatment is relatively painless, and most people report feeling
relaxed and calm during and after the procedure.
We usually ask clients to take a seat in our waiting area for 10 minutes after the session, especially
if they are planning to drive afterward in case of any delayed adverse reaction.

What else can be done for migraines/neck pain/headaches?

We will also look at lifestyle factors such as sleep, hydration, nutrition, stress management. These factors can have a significant impact on our general health and thus lead to headaches & migraines.

At Pro Health Physio, we also have chiropractors who work alongside us. They are highly skilled in hands on manipulation, massage and manual therapy techniques to alleviate any stiffness, restrictions, tightness and thus lead to better neck movement which provides an optimal environment for your headaches to improve.

Research on the use of acupuncture to manage
At Pro Health Physio NE we apply evidence based practice in all areas. There have been several
studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of using acupuncture when managing migraines.
A meta-analysis of twenty-eight randomised controlled trials (Ou et al, 2020) showed that
treatment reduced the frequency of migraine attacks, lowered pain scores, and increased
therapeutic efficiency compared with sham acupuncture. Compared with medication,
acupuncture showed higher effectiveness with less adverse reactions.
In 2011, Yang et al investigated the efficacy and tolerability of acupuncture compared with
topiramate treatment in chronic migraine prophylaxis. A total of 66 migraines patients were
randomly divided into two treatment groups; acupuncture group and topiramate group. A
significantly larger decrease in the mean monthly number of moderate/severe headache days was
observed in the acupuncture group compared with the topiramate group.
More recently, in 2023, Lu et al found that acupuncture is an effective and safe intervention for
preventing and treating migraines, and can be considered as a good option for patients with

Some tips for helping manage migraines at home:

1. Keep a migraine diary
By keeping a diary of when migraines come on, as well as noting their length and severity, we can
start to spot emerging patterns of when your symptoms are at their worst. This helps us in
choosing a correct treatment method and to plot your path back to living a fulfilling life.
2. Become educated
There are some fantastic resources about how best to manage migraines, what causes them and
how we can help manage them. Ultimately, pain is complicated. We must take into account lots of
different aspects
3. Seek the support of your physiotherapist,
A good therapist will help you achieve your goals. Here at Pro Health Physio NE it is always our
ambition to get you back doing the things you enjoy, and they don’t always have to be activity
related either! We work alongside any coaches or PT’s to ensure you can continue training, with
some adaptations, gradually returning to your normal training, classes, competitions and social

To book in for an assessment to see whether acupuncture is something that
you could use to manage your symptoms, click here


Ou, M.Q., Fan, W.H., Sun, F.R., Jie, W.X., Lin, M.J., Cai, Y.J., Liang, S.Y., Yu, Y.S., Li, M.H., Cui, L.L. and
Zhou, H.H., 2020. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the therapeutic effect of acupuncture
on migraine. Frontiers in neurology, 11, p.596.
Yang, C.P., Chang, M.H., Liu, P.E., Li, T.C., Hsieh, C.L., Hwang, K.L. and Chang, H.H., 2011.
Acupuncture versus topiramate in chronic migraine prophylaxis: a randomized clinical trial.
Cephalalgia, 31(15), pp.1510-1521.
Lu, T.T., Lu, C.C., Li, M.X., Ke, L.X., Cai, H. and Yang, K.H., 2022. Reporting and methodological
quality of meta-analyses of acupuncture for patients with migraine: A methodological
investigation with evidence map. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 20(3), pp.213-220.