Migraines, this invisible affliction

Many people suffer from migraines and find it difficult to seek relief and continue their normal activities. Migraines are in fact ranked 6th in the world among diseases causing the most years of disability, according to the World Health Organization 1.

Migraines are often a recurring condition, affecting people for many years. They are caused by the activation in the brain of a mechanism leading to the release of painful inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head 1,2. According to the most recent studies, acupuncture is an effective non-pharmaceutical therapy for relieving migraines and reducing their recurrence 3.

The physiological mechanisms behind the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating pain have been the subject of extensive research for over 60 years 4. Although much remains to be learned about the effect of acupuncture on the human body, the neural pathways stimulated by acupuncture points have been mapped, from the stimulation zone, to the spinal cord and pain centers in the brain 4,5,6. Acupuncture has also been shown to activate a number of natural opioids in the body and improve the sensitivity of the brain to these substances4,7. A number of other molecules involved in pain reduction are released or regulated by the stimulation of acupuncture 4,8.

References for this page:

1.Organisation mondiale de la santé, Headache disorders – Fact sheet, Available online
2. Silberstein, S.D. 2020, Migraine, Mercks Manual Professional, Available online
3. McDonald et Janz, 2017, the Acupuncture Evidence Project, A comparative literature review, Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association. Available online
4. Russel, D. & M. Hopper Koppelman. Acupuncture for Pain – Evidence Summary, Evidence based acupuncture, Available online
5. Longhurst, J., Chee-Yee, S., & Li, P. (2017). Defining Acupuncture’s Place in Western Medicine. Scientia, 1–5.
6. Zhang, Z.-J., Wang, X.-M., & McAlonan, G. M. (2012). Neural Acupuncture Unit: A New Concept for Interpreting Effects and Mechanisms of Acupuncture. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012(3), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2007.08.003
7. Harris, R. E., Zubieta, J.-K., Scott, D. J., Napadow, V., Gracely, R. H., & Clauw, D. J. (2009). Traditional Chinese acupuncture and placebo (sham) acupuncture are differentiated by their effects on μ-opioid receptors (MORs). NeuroImage, 47(3), 1077–1085. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.083
8. Zhao, Z.-Q. (2008). Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Progress in Neurobiology, 85(4), 355–375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.05.004
9. Image by Yangcao