My Experience Doing Acupuncture for Migraine
Last updated: August 2023
For a few months straight it seemed like my preschooler was always sick with a new virus, and I caught all of them. This led to an increase in my migraine frequency. To make things worse, I had to stop my preventive medication for various reasons and it wasn’t a good time to start a new one. I’ve had chronic migraine in the past and I know for me the increased frequency puts me at risk for chronification.
What alternative treatment did my doctor recommend?
Because of all these factors, it seemed like an alternative treatment was worth a try. My doctor suggested acupuncture. It’s something I’d never done before but had heard other’s stories, and they were mostly positive.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including migraine attacks. The needles my acupuncturist uses are sanitary single-use needles, and she uses rubbing alcohol to clean the insertion points.
There is some scientific evidence to support the use of acupuncture for migraine. A study published in the journal Neurology found that acupuncture was effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.1
I knew several people who saw the same acupuncturist in my neighborhood so I decided to try her treatments.
How did my first appointment go?
My first appointment was underwhelming. I lay down on a massage table, but instead of massaging out my sore muscles, she stuck needles all over me! It didn’t hurt, but I didn’t “feel” anything like I would have at a massage, chiropractic, or PT appointment. I then waited in the peaceful, dark room for 45 minutes while the needles did whatever it is they do. I didn't find the needles to be painful. I did sometimes feel tingling or other sensations at the insertion points. She told me I was feeling the flow of energy in my body.
Has acupuncture reduced my migraine attacks?
Though it seemed like nothing was happening, after going several times, my acupuncturist was able to help me reduce the frequency of my migraines. I now feel like I can feel that energy flow even when not at an appointment. So, in addition to lowering my migraine frequency, it has also increased my body awareness.
How much does it cost?
Insurance sometimes covers acupuncture, but in my case, it doesn't. This is a big reason why I hadn't tried it in the past. If you're not sure if your insurance covers it, the best way to find out is to call the number on the back of your insurance card. They can tell you if they do and, if so, if there is a limit on visits per year. They can usually also give you a list of providers in your network.
How long will I do acupuncture?
I don’t know if I’ll need acupuncture long-term or if I just need it to break the migraine cycle. Only time will tell. But I am grateful to have another tool in my toolkit.
Note: If you are considering trying acupuncture for migraine, it is important to find a qualified acupuncturist. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) offers a certification program for acupuncturists. You can find a certified acupuncturist in your area by visiting the NCCAOM website.
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?