Migraines and needles: David's story

Man with headache.jpg
In my article in the Spring 2015 edition of Ciren Wellbeing, I talked about one of my patients' experiences of migraines and acupuncture. David's experience was fairly typical of someone receiving acupuncture treatment for headaches and migraines, so I thought I would share his case study here:

David’s migraines

David (46) first came to see me in July last year. He had been suffering with tension headaches since his teens, which developed into debilitating migraines three years ago.

At his initial consultation, David described his migraines: “It’s like my head’s going to explode. I just have to lie down somewhere dark for a couple of days. I’d say I get two or three a month”. David’s migraines were affecting his relationships and work “My partner gets the brunt of it … I’ve had to take time off work, so it’s affecting us financially too.”

What David’s GP said

David was sceptical when he first came to see me, but his GP encouraged him to try acupuncture because the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends it for chronic tension-type headaches and migraines. David’s migraine medication gave him painful heartburn, so he was desperate to find an alternative.

Getting the full picture

At David’s initial consultation, we spent 45 minutes talking about his migraines as well as his general health. We also discussed how he could make some lifestyle and dietary changes that would help. I then took David’s pulse and looked at his tongue. This gave me a full, detailed picture of what was going on for him. David had his first treatment during the second half of the session.

What acupuncture felt like

David’s first acupuncture experience wasn’t what he expected: “It’s really strange how the needles don’t feel like needles. It was actually really relaxing.”

David’s progress

David returned for his second treatment a week later, reporting that he had one migraine during the week, which passed within a few hours. He had taken fewer painkillers and his heartburn had improved. David had also started making some changes, including cutting down on alcohol and getting back on his bicycle.

David had another three acupuncture treatments, making it five sessions in total. He hadn’t had a full-blown migraine since the second treatment, and had his first headache-free week in almost 20 years after his fourth treatment. He was able to stop taking his migraine medication and his heartburn disappeared.

David also found that other aspects of his wellbeing improved: “I’m actually sleeping properly now. I’ve got more energy. I’m not such a grouch anymore. I’m a chilled out guy now, but more focussed at the same time.”

What now?

After his initial course of treatment, David decided to continue having monthly acupuncture treatments, saying “I don’t need it for the migraines anymore. Acupuncture just makes me feel good and that’s a good thing.”

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