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Success Stories from the Acupuncture Clinic: Severe Migraines

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on my website, I LOVE treating migraines. To regularly see patients go from having a debilitating, life-stopping condition, to being symptom free without medications, is so satisfying for both myself and my patients.

Today, a patient whom I’ve been seeing for migraines just reached the transition phase from coming in regularly, to backing down to a “maintenance mode” treatment schedule.

I figured I’d write up her case and share it since it’s so representative of a typical migraine patient.

(If you’re not interested in the nitty gritty of all her symptoms and treatment process, scroll down to the Summary for a quick look at how the process and results turned out.)

I hope this case helps anyone else suffering from migraines to see how Chinese medicine can help them!

(As usual, for privacy names have been changed.)

Migraine Patient history:

Marcy is a 49 year old woman who had debilitating migraines in high school which started with the onset of her period, but then went away after the birth of her first child in her early twenties.

She had been mostly symptom-free until her father passed away 3 years ago, only a year after going through a particularly difficult divorce.  The migraines then began again about once every few months, then started coming monthly, then finally once or even more per week. That’s when she scheduled her first appointment. By then, she’d been having migraines 1-2x/week for over a year.  Often, her migraine meds “wouldn’t even touch it”

She has a very strong, sturdy body constitution, big boned and muscular. She had to get weekly massages just to loosen her upper body enough that it was bearable. Since her father’s death she had suffered from insomnia. Her periods had always been regular and pain-free, however they became irregular over the past few years of stress, at the same time that she believed she was perimenopausal. Her digestion was “perfect” except when she would have nausea during migraines.

Under times of exceptional stress her entire upper body would feel like she had “adrenaline coursing through it”; her heart would race, she would get flushed and hot, her face would sweat, her breathing become shallow, her jaw would clench, and she wouldn’t be able to calm her spinning thoughts. She would call these “mini panicks”

Acupuncture Treatment:

As is typical, we started her off on twice/week appointments, with the plan of backing off once her migraine frequency decreased. At her second visit, I wrote her a customized herb prescription.

After two weeks of treatment she had only had one migraine. We kept her on twice/week for one more week. When she still hadn’t had another migraine (so only 1 migraine in 3 weeks since starting treatment) at that point, she backed down to weekly treatments.

Her upper body symptoms immediately improved after her first treatment. Under extreme stress she would still get the spinning thoughts, but she was now able to use her extensive meditation tools to calm them down.

Her sleep did not improve until 3 weeks into treatment.

I saw her once/week for the next month, during which time she had two migraines, once around her period and the second one after a stressful interaction with her ex.

We backed her down to every other week appointments at that point. Her insomnia was about 60% improved at this point, after approximately 7 weeks of treatment. She had decreased her massage schedule to once every other week.  She was no longer getting “mini-panicks”.

I saw her every other week for another 2 months. In that period of time she had 3 migraines, all again during particularly stressful times.

We backed her down to one treatment every 3 weeks. After about two months on this schedule, she only had had one migraine between the last two appointments. We scheduled her again for a month later.

That appointment was today, and she hadn’t had a migraine since her prior appointment. She had had two periods that both came right on time, her first regularly spaced periods in a couple years.

We decided to keep her on herbs, since I could tell from her tongue and pulse that she still wasn’t totally balanced, and if we stopped treatment completely her migraines would likely return.

So she will come in once/month at this point, at which time I can take her pulse/tongue diagnosis, and get an update on her symptoms so I can represcribe her herbs. If she still hasn’t had a migraine, I will likely advise once every other month treatments.

Summary of Acupuncture Treatment Results and Assessment:

This patient had come in having 1-2 migraines/week for about 1.5 years.

Although we worked together for quite some time, about 5-6 months, in that period of time she only had a total of 7 migraines. In the first few weeks alone she had about a 75% improvement in her symptoms. Also, in the course of treatment her insomnia, irregular periods, debilitating neck and shoulder tightness, and mini panic-attacks all improved.

While we probably could have backed off on treatment sooner, that would not have benefited her at all, and she would likely not have kept the migraines at bay as she has.

Her pulse & tongue were another indicator to me that we needed to stay the course with treatment in order to keep the migraines away. That’s what I love about Chinese medicine…things like the tongue and pulse give us clues as to the best course of treatment, that we could get no other way.

Typical Migraine Acupuncture Patient

Marcy is just one patient, but she represents a very typical case. Some patients take longer to get results, which often varies depending on what their underlying imbalance is. Marcy happened to have an imbalance that in my experience responds very quickly to treatment, and it’s also a very common underlying cause of migraines.

In other cases that we still consider a success however, patients need to continue coming twice/week for several weeks to get the same results. Marcy had the benefit of being  a stay-at-home mom to only one older teenage kid at this point who didn’t need much supervision, so she had time to take care of herself without demands of work stress.

Other cases respond even faster, but I don’t like to talk too much about those cases at the risk of making acupuncture sound like “magic” and giving unrealistic expectations about results. As I say to my patients often, “we must remember, acupuncture is medicine, not magic“, so we need to give it time to do its job. After all, it’s trying to actually HEAL all the underlying causes for the symptoms, rather than just temporarily masking them.

Our bodies need gentleness and patience to heal in the process!

If you think acupuncture could help you with your migraines, you can schedule an appointment by clicking the button below.

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Tags: migraines