Can Acupuncture Treat Migraines?

Over the years that I’ve been practicing acupuncture, I have often been asked whether it can treat certain health conditions.  While the short answer is almost invariably “yes,” the true answer is that acupuncture does not treat the condition, but rather it treats the person.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world, originating in China more than 2,000 years ago.  A treatment involves the placement of hair-thin needles into the skin to stimulate and encourage the body’s own healing powers. Treatments are virtually painless and are entirely individualized, so two people with the same complaint may receive quite different treatments.   

The idea that the illness cannot be separated from the person is fundamental to Chinese Medicine.  I have found the Chinese conception of Qi and health – that all the systems of the body are intricately connected to each other; that the body and mind and spirit are not separate; that good health is a journey, not a destination – can have profound effects on patients’ lives.  

An initial acupuncture treatment starts with a patient’s history in which we talk about health and lifestyle issues.  I observe the patient's tongue and pulse, and ask questions that may seem unrelated to the primary reason for treatment, but help to illuminate underlying patterns of imbalance.  Acupuncture naturally places a strong emphasis on prevention, treating symptoms before they become more serious, and re-balancing the body so that conditions can be corrected even before they manifest. Acupuncture may increase blood flow and cause the body to release endorphins, but is perhaps more easily understood through natural images.  The energies of the body are like a river – when healthy, they are flowing with life. When stagnant, they can be like a swamp and can easily decay.     

The World Health Organization acknowledges many conditions that acupuncture can treat, including pain, digestive problems, fatigue, immune disorders, infertility, headaches and migraines.  I also find acupuncture to be very helpful for psychological and emotional conditions, such as depression, anxiety, grief, and insomnia.   

It is essential that these different conditions be understood and treated only in relation to the whole person.  So, if I were asked, “Can acupuncture treat migraines?” or “Can you help me sleep better?” I would reply, "Yes, but first I have a lot of questions."  

Matthew is available Tuesdays and Thursdays at Southampton Hospital’s Ed & Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute, 240 Meeting House Lane, Southampton. For appointments, please call (631) 726-8800.  

Matthew Greenberg, L.Ac is a licensed Acupuncturist with a B.A. from Tufts University and a Master of Science from the Swedish Institute in New York City. He has also studied in Beijing, China. Chinese Medicine considers illness as a message to the body to make a change, and an acupuncture needle communicates directly with the body, indicating that there is an imbalance and inviting that change.  Matthew believes that a fundamental principle of acupuncture is to treat the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – and to relieve the root cause of disease, not just the symptoms.