Migraine Update

Eight individuals suffering from migraine headaches came to my acupuncture clinic in the last two months. All of them have experienced significant improvement with decreased frequency, duration, and intensity of their migraine after the treatments.  The need for medication has decreased, and those who do use medication when necessary have a better response. In fact, one young nurse with the disabling headache returned to work after only five sessions and has remained headache-free for one month. The following is her testimonial:

“Prior to being referred to Dr. Sheng by my endocrinologist, I was suffering from severe migraines that lasted between three and six days a week. After four visits, these migraines were reduced to only occasionally and at most once a week. In fact, since the very first visit, I have experienced no more than a migraine two days a week, with the severity considerably decreased. This is significant relief to pain for which I have been suffering for the past five months. Many visits to specialists over the last five months were to no avail until now.

As a registered nurse, I have often found that the holistic approach of Eastern medicine can supplement and often surpass results obtained through the Western disciplines. After all, Eastern therapies recognize that the entire body works together and that each body part, whether it be an organ, nerve, muscle or other, affects all of the other parts. In addition, acupuncture is a proven technique that has been in existence thousands of years prior to the beginning of Western medicine. I strongly recommend Dr. Sheng. He is a medical doctor trained in both Eastern and Western disciplines and understands how to utilize both for the full benefit of his patients’ health.”


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Migraines

Contemporary western medicine views migraines as a disorder in which hypersensitive individuals, in times of stress, develop localized vascular inflammation and vasodilation, as mediated by inflammatory cytokines such as serotonin and other peptides. Supposedly, migraines fall along the path of arteries; however, I often find it difficult to correlate the headache with a specific artery or arteries based on our anatomical knowledge. Because of the proximity of the meningeal arteries to the cranial nerves, some may have neurological symptoms such as visual changes or motor/sensory deficiency, which include numbness and tingling in the body.

The location of the migraine may vary from individual to individual; it may be temporal, frontal, occipital, unilateral, or bilateral.  Additionally, migraines have an interesting pattern of radiation. For example, a person with a temporal headache may also have pain encircling their ears and radiating down to their neck and shoulder. If one takes a look at the distribution of acupuncture channels in the head and neck region, one could see that the headache falls on one of the channels or meridians at least 80-90% of the time. As I have already mentioned in my previous discussion, traditional Chinese medicine views pain/migraines as the result of energy blockage in meridians, and the blockage may be just at one point or over a longer segment.

Western practitioners do not differentially treat migraines in accordance to the location of the headache. In contrast, acupuncturists first ask themselves where the headache is and which channel(s) are involved before inserting the needles. Not every person has a straight-forward diagnosis, and an additional tongue and pulse diagnosis may be needed as well.

The following people may want to seriously consider acupuncture for migraine management:

  • Those experiencing poor response to medications
  • Those exhibiting intolerance to the side effects of medications
  • Those who want to decrease, or entirely stop, the usage of medication
  • Those who desire a better quality of life, as acupuncture also helps with relaxation, sleep, energy improvement, etc.

Besides acupuncture, I can also recommend Nutracenticals (herbs, vitamins, minerals) and dietary modifications if needed. With an integrative approach, most migraine sufferers improve significantly.


Dr. Peter Sheng
Cincinnati Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Care