How Acupuncture Saved Me From Migraines

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When all else failed me in the midst of debilitating migraines, acupuncture changed my life. So many dates, parties, and holidays I’ve bailed on because the intense pain of migraines kept me bedridden. My kids have heard more times than I’d like to think about that mommy couldn’t do this or that because I had a headache.

"Headache" sounds so mild compared to the real nastiness of a full-fledged migraine. The pain is so bad that everything–light, sound, movement—are unbearable. I’ve found myself over the toilet because of the nausea that migraines bring on. I've cried to my husband and no doubt left him feeling powerless to help.

Suffering from intense migraines since my early 30s, I’d tried every imaginable treatment. I have catalogued my “triggers” in the hopes that by avoiding them, I’d prevent future episodes. When my triggers turned out to be rain, snow, pollen, stress, monthly hormonal changes…and wine, I knew I needed another approach. Over the counter medications didn’t cut it either. They barely took the edge off of the pain. Prescription meds did the trick, but left me so tired and groggy I could barely function. I was always back where I started. 

I had resigned myself to a life dotted with these blank spaces of days that I just couldn’t be a part of because of my migraines. That is, until relief arrived in the form of a mysterious 2,000-year-old therapy. A few years ago my mother mentioned that she’d tried acupuncture for knee pain had noticed a difference. It sounded so exotic and invasive. (Maybe it’s the “puncture” part.) But, I was desperate for relief and therefore a willing pincushion. After discovering that treatment was covered by my health insurance, I found a nearby clinic right in my own town. Maybe acupuncture wasn’t so exotic after all?

After a brief consultation about my health history, physical concerns, and lifestyle, it was time to begin. The acupuncturist dimmed the lights, played the regulation “zen” soundtrack, and lit candles. Lying on my back on a massage table, I was nervous but hopeful. The practitioner quickly inserted paper thin needles at strategic points up and down my body. I felt no pain and was surprisingly relaxed. I was left to rest in the quiet room with the first batch of needles. They were everywhere: my ears, temples, arms, and ankles. Thin metal wires were poking out at every angle. It was heaven.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of medicine based on re-booting the meridians, or pathways throughout the body that carry energy or “chi.” Illness and pain erupt when chi is blocked. Needles are inserted at certain points on the body that correspond to body parts or health systems of concern. Within a single visit I knew I was on to something. Leaving the office, I felt blissful. I had decompressed so much that it took me a few minutes to gather my bearings before driving home.

Sessions followed weekly for the next month or so, and then staggered to monthly once I began to feel relief. Two weeks after my first appointment, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a single headache since the previous visit. The benefits of acupuncture were confirmed when the first snowstorm of the winter passed uneventfully for me. Intense weather like a snowstorm had always guaranteed a migraine for me in the past. But this year I went sledding with the kids. I enjoyed every moment of it. 

Acupuncture continues to be a blessing for me for preventing migraines. It does require a commitment. When I don’t keep up with my appointments, I’m right back where I started. The amount of emotional and physical conditions that acupuncture has been known to treat is impressive. Besides leaving me pain-free, I generally feel more patient, optimistic, and grounded after a session.

For me the best part about acupuncture is that it is the natural option. There are no side effects to consider. I don’t have to wonder what it’s doing to my organs. I can become dependent on it, but that's not a bad thing. Acupuncture might not be the answer for everyone, but for me, a little tinkering with my chi is just what the doctor ordered.