Migraine symptom relief and prevention, with Acupuncture Osteopathy and Naturopathy
What is migraine?
Migraine is a complex condition with a wide variety of symptoms. For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. Migraines can be very frightening and may result in you having to lie still for several hours, sometimes in the dark.
The symptoms will vary from person to person and individuals may have different symptoms during different attacks. Your attacks may differ in length and frequency. Migraines usually last from 4 to 72 hours and most people are free from symptoms between attacks. Migraines can have an enormous impact on your work, family and social lives.
What can cause migraine?
The exact cause of migraine is unknown; it is thought to be a combination of circulatory and neurological factors. Vasodilation (excessive dilation of the blood vessels) causes pain, most likely due to chemical changes which occur in the body. There is also a strong genetic link, with the children of migraine sufferers being pre-disposed to migraine.
Although the exact cause is unknown, researchers have identified a number of triggers which include:
- Emotion - stress, fear, anxiety, tiredness
- Diet - alcohol, caffeine, cheese, chocolate
- Hormones - menstrual cycle
- Change in habits - lack of sleep, skipped meals
- Weather changes
- Poor posture
What are the facts about migraines?
Fixed risk factors which cannot be changed include:
- 1 in 7 people in the UK suffer from migraine.
- Migraine affects twice as many women as men.
- Migraine affects people from all age groups (even young children) and from all social classes.
- Migraine costs the UK around £2.25 billion per annum.
- The World Health Organisation has classified headache as a major health disorder and has rated migraine amongst the top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions.
- A migraine attack can last for between 4 and 72 hours.
- Sufferers experience an average of 13 attacks each year.
- Migraine is more than just a headache. Other symptoms can include: visual disturbances (flashing lights, blind spots in the vision, zig zag patterns etc.), nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia), sensitivity to noise (phonophobia), sensitivity to smells (osmophobia) and tingling / pins and needles / weakness.
- Migraine is triggered by a huge variety of factors not just cheese, chocolate and red wine! For most people there is not just one trigger but a combination of factors which individually can be tolerated, but when they all occur together, a threshold is passed and a migraine is triggered.
- Migraine is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined - eight million people in the UK have migraine.
How can Acupuncture, Osteopathy and Naturopathy help?
Migraine is thought to begin as an electrical phenomenon in the cerebrum that then affects blood vessels, biochemistry, and causes neurogenic inflammation.
Acupuncture can help in the treatment of migraine by:
- Providing pain relief - by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to the release of endorphins and other neurochemical factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
- Reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
- Reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression (an electrical wave in the brain associated with migraine) and plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P (both implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine)
- Modulating extracranial and intracranial blood flow
- Affecting serotonin (5-hydroxytriptamine) levels in the brain. (Serotonin may be linked to the initiation of migraines; 5-HT agonists (triptans) are used against acute attacks.)
is a highly effective treatment for migraines, as tension in the muscles and bones are often the cause of head pain. Tense muscles release chemicals that can trigger headaches. Nerves that are responsible for head pain are close to the nerves that start between the bones of the spine and neck - the areas of the body where osteopaths focus their treatment.
Osteopathy is a gentle and non-invasive therapy that allows the body to function correctly. Using manual techniques to highlight areas of tension and blockages, an osteopath relieves constriction so the body can use its own natural ability to overcome illness or disease which in turn eases pain such as migraines.
Naturopathy. When exploring the causes of migraines, a good place to start is your diet. Food reactions are a significant contributor to headaches and some improvement in symptoms, if not complete remission, can always be achieved by eliminating problematic dietary items. The foods described below may be causing your headaches, and it is a good idea to try and eliminate or reduce intake of the problem areas. Using a Naturopathic approach, alternative foods can be found as substitutes, and supplements can be recommended.
Foods that most commonly induce migraines include:
- cow's milk
- benzoic acid
- tartrazine (yellow food dye)
Foods like cheese, beer, and wine induce migraines in some people because they contain histamines and/or vasoactive compounds that cause blood vessels to expand. Women tend to react to histamine-containing foods more frequently than men do, on account of a deficiency in an enzyme (diamine oxidase) that breaks histamine down. Taking supplemental B6 may be helpful in these situations, as it can increase diamine oxidase activity.
Nitrites, which are common ingredients in lunch meats and smoked/cured meats, dilate blood vessels, and may trigger migraine.
What evidence is available?
- Migraine Action is accredited by The Department of Health's Information Standard scheme as a provider of high quality healthcare information
How can we help with migraine?
Our clinics in Cambridgeshire and London offer Acupuncture
treatments for migraine. Our Sawtry
clinic covers a wide area from Peterborough to Huntingdon and St. Neots, while at the Steeple Morden
clinic we receive patients from Baldock and Royston, plus Ashwell and all over North Herts. From Deeping St James
, our most rural clinic attracts patients from Stamford, Spalding and Peterborough.