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Migraine Awareness Week 2020

Migraine Awareness Week 2020

Migraine and Acupuncture

Each September we use this week to raise general awareness of migraine as a serious public health issue and to reduce stigma

While there is an increasing awareness of migraine and understanding of what it is, not many would disagree that we are nowhere near the level of awareness and understanding that we need to reach. And we do need to reach it because lack of awareness and understanding of migraine seriously impacts our lives, with too many people not fully realising what it is like to live with this condition.

That’s why it is so crucial for us to maximize the opportunity that Migraine Awareness Week gives us. Running from 6-12 September in 2020, it is a moment in the year when everyone affected by migraine and everyone working to help those affected work together to raise the profile of migraine as a complex neurological condition and dispel any ideas that it is ‘just a headache’ (from the Migraine Trust)

Traditional Five Element Acupuncture can be an effective way to treat Migraines as every individuals experience of Migraine is different, acupuncture treats the whole person and their response to each type of condition they present with. Traditional Five Element Acupuncture can help your system to be more balanced therefore not so susceptible to the trigger factors.

From British acupuncture Council site- research showing how Acupuncture can help in the treatment of migraine:

  • Providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral [HC1] factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Zhao 2008, Zijlstra 2003, Pomeranz, 1987)
  • Reducing inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003).
  • Reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression (an electrical wave in the brain associated with migraine) and plasma  levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P (both implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine) (Shi 2010).
  • Modulating extracranial and intracranial blood flow (Park 2009).
  • Affecting serotonin (5-hydroxytriptamine) levels in the brain (Zhong 2007). (Serotonin may be linked to the initiation of migraines; 5-HT agonists (triptans) are used against acute attacks.)

Trigger factors (From the Migraine Trust Website)

What are trigger factors and can being aware of them help you to manage your migraine?

What is a trigger?

A trigger is any event, change, external stimulus or physical act which seems to result in migraine

It precedes the attack by a short interval which could be as much as up to 6 to 8 hours. Identifying a trigger is not always easy. Almost any factor can trigger an attack in a person predisposed to this condition, and the list of possible suspects can be long and confusing.

Common triggers

Changes in routine

Some people find that changes in their routine can contribute to a migraine. For example changing sleep patterns or changes caused by long journeys can precede an attack. Even pleasant changes such as a holiday can be implicated.

Weekend headaches

Many people complain that they get migraines at the weekend. At the weekend you may have a change in many of your daily routines such as eating times, reduced caffeine consumption which is particularly noticeable if you have a ‘lie in’ after a busy week.


Migraine and stress are strongly linked. Indeed, anxiety, excitement and any form of tension and shock may all lead to a migraine attack. However, some people report that their migraine attacks start when the stress reduces. This is sometimes experienced as “weekend headaches” when, after a busy and stressful week at work, an individual might experience a migraine at the weekend when they are more relaxed.


The complex nature of trigger factors is illustrated by sleep. Both too much and too little sleep can be implicated in a migraine starting. Some people find that sleepless nights, a number of late nights and being over tired can trigger a migraine. Other people find that sleeping in or dozing in the mornings has the same effect.


Excessive consumption of caffeine may contribute to the onset of a migraine attack. You could try not having more than 4 or 5 cups of tea, coffee or cola in a day. Some people find that suddenly stopping caffeine altogether can also be a trigger factor. If you suspect this, you may wish to cut down on caffeine more gradually. Some people find that consuming less caffeine at the weekend can have an impact on migraine attacks, but you should also note that caffeine can be found in many products including chocolate and over the counter painkillers.

Hormonal changes in women

Migraine is closely associated with female hormones. Some women find their migraines start at puberty, and are linked to their menstrual cycle. The additional hormonal trigger for women may explain why more women than men experience migraine during their reproductive years.  Menopause is often the most difficult time for women with migraine.

The environment

There are certain trigger factors which can be related to environmental issues such as high altitude, weather changes, high humidity, loud noises, exposure to glare or flickering lights. It is unclear if light and sound are themselves triggers, or if heightened sensitivity to them are early features in the attack.

Computer screens/VDUs

Sitting in front of a computer at home or work for long periods of time can cause problems if you experience migraine. Following common sense precautions such as taking regular breaks, using anti-glare screens and good lighting can help prevent this sort of difficulty.

Sitting comfortably is very important when you use a computer to avoid muscle tension building up in the head, neck and shoulders. This muscle tension is implicated in the onset of migraine.


Food related triggers occur in about 10% of people with migraine. Many people will crave sweet food such as chocolate before the pain of the migraine is experienced which leads them to conclude that eating sweet food is a cause. However, sometimes the craving for particular food is a symptom of the beginning of the migraine.

Lack of food

Missing meals or eating sugary snacks instead of a balanced meal can all contribute to a migraine attack. Insufficient food is probably one of the most important dietary triggers. You may find that eating small nutritious snacks at regular intervals can help to control your attacks.


Some food products contain chemicals or additives which may also be implicated in an attack. Ones which are frequently mentioned by people with migraine are monosodium glutamate, nitrates and aspartame.

Alcohol and cheese

There is some evidence that red wine may trigger a migraine because it contains tyramine which has been linked to migraine. Certainly many people with migraine avoid red wine. Tyramine is also found in other food products such as soft cheeses like camembert and brie.

Mild dehydration

Mild dehydration can have an impact on people who have migraine. It is recommended that you should drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. This is in addition to any other drinks you may have. Fizzy drinks can contain the sweetener aspartame which some people link to their migraine.


Taking cocaine and withdrawal from cocaine can trigger an attack. Using cannabis can contribute to making your attacks more difficult to treat.


Like sleep, exercise can both help to prevent migraine and conversely can be a trigger factor for some people. Regular exercise which is built up gently can help to prevent migraine. It also stimulates the body to release its own natural painkillers, as well as increasing the individual’s sense of well-being and general health. Sudden vigorous exercise, particularly for people who do not usually take exercise, can be a trigger factor.

Oral contraceptives

The use of contraceptives which contain hormones such as the contraceptive pill can trigger migraine for some women. Medical advice should always be sought if this occurs. If you already experience migraine you should tell your GP this before you start taking hormonal contraceptives.

Teeth grinding

Some people grind their teeth during the night and find they wake with head pain. If this is the case it is worthwhile seeing a dentist as there are special mouth plates (called occlusal splints) which can reduce the teeth grinding.

Physical conditions

  • Head injury
    Specific head injuries can result in headaches and migraine.
  • Muscle tension
    Tense muscles in the neck and shoulder areas can cause headaches and may be a premonitory symptom of the migraine starting.
  • Coughing
    Repeated coughing can lead to a migraine for some people.

Traditional Five Element Acupuncture can help your system to be more balanced therefore not so susceptible to the trigger factors. For more information ad treatment Contact Hannah on:-

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