Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines

I am so thankful I've never experienced a migraine, I really feel for those that get them regularly.

I have seen a number of patients here at Community Acupuncture Oamaru for treatment of migraines and headaches. Some have had great results after the first treatment, others it has been a slow process of reducing migraine frequency over a number of treatments.

The most difficult aspect of treating migraines is discovering the cause and finding a diagnosis - from both the Western Medicine perspective and Traditional Chinese Medicine. There must be hundreds of different causes and triggers for different individuals!


A Look at the Research

In a 2016 Cochrane review of 22 trials and almost 5000 participants, it was found that:

  • Participants who recieved acupunture as well as usual care (usually painkillers) found they had less headaches than those receiving standard care alone. (1)

  • When acupuncture was compared with fake acupuncture (needles are inserted at incorrect points or not inserted into skin at all), the acupuncture group had less headaches than the fake acupuncture, but both groups experienced a reduction in headaches. (1)

  • Participants who received acupuncture experienced less headaches than those prescribed medication known to reduce headaches. Those in the medication group also experienced more side effects. (1)


3 Most Common Causes of Migraines and Headaches from the TCM Perspective

Liver Qi Stagnation

These are the stress, tension and PMS headaches. The ones you feel in the top of your shoulders and at your temples.

The Liver is in control of the free and smooth movement of Qi in the body. When the body comes under stress - usually mental/emotional stress, the Liver stops moving Qi properly, which causes pain. You might also experience irritation and frustration, tiredness and upset digestion. Everything just gets a bit cranky!


The dairy and gluten induced headaches, or the migraines before a change in weather, (also the hangover headaches!)

Often the pain will be felt in the whole head, with dizziness or a sensation of water swishing in the head. There may be sinus problems, poor digestion and a feeling of heaviness in the body - general grogginess.

Liver Blood Depletion

The afternoon "I haven't eaten enough" migraine. They are often accompanied by light and sound sensitivity, and there may be light-headedness before the onset of the headache.

If there is not enough good quality blood for the Liver to move then not enough nutrients can get up to the head. These headaches may occur after blood loss, such as after menstruation, traumatic childbirth with blood loss, or injuries and accidents.

There are so many other causes of migraines in Chinese medicine, and there can be complex combinations of these causes too.


If you experience headaches or migraines, call Elise now on 0223765960 for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss what may be causing your pain and how acupuncture may help.



(1) Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA., Vickers A, White AR. (2016). Acupuncture for preventing migraine attacks. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square