What causes migraine headaches?

  1. Exact etiology is unknown.
  2. 80% of patients have positive family history. Identification of a chromosomal abnormality has been confirmed in familial hemiplegic migraine.
  3. It appears to be a genetically-linked neuronal disease with vascular disruption as an epiphenomenona of underlying neurochemical disruption.
  4. Serotonin and norepinephrine metabolism abnormalities may play a role.
  5. Neurogenic inflammation and regional disruption of cerebral and/or extracranial blood flow may explain some clinical features.

Tension, cluster & mixed headaches have different mechanism and etiologies, please refer to other sources due to limited space here. However, acupuncture do deliver quick relief due to all 3 kinds of headaches and has been widely recognized.

What are the risk factors of migraine headaches?

  1. specific foods: M.S.G., red wine, alcohol, Other foods like aged cheeses and chocolates. Other foods are sour foods like vinegar, citrus fruits, sour cream and yogurt. Dried / smoked fish, dairy products, beans, nuts, onions, caffeinated drinks, and food additives may also trigger migraines.
  2. missing meals,
  3. hormone: menstrual cycle, estrogen replacement
  4. physical: injury or over-exertion,
  5. emotional: loss, death, argument, fear, emotional stress, relief of stress,
  6. chemical: drugs, BCP’s, vasodilators or air pollution
  7.  chronobiology: excessive sleep, lack of sleep, fatigue,
  8. sensory: glaring lights
  9. family history of migraine,
  10. female gender,
  11. young age,
  12. history of childhood cyclic vomiting, cyclic abdominal pain, motion sickness.

Self-care for migraine headaches.

Before having attacks:

The best way is to keep a diary to log down your migraine attacks and find out the triggering factors. Modify your lifestyle toward a less-triggering one. Such as getting a vacation to relax (What a luxury idea, isn’t it?), quitting red wine, chocolate & coffee (A life without red wine, chocolate & coffee?) …



During the headache, you can

1.      apply compression to tender areas of scalp or neck;

2.      apply cold compression to area of pain;

3.      rest with pillows comfortable supporting the head or neck in an area that is devoid of sensory stimulation, including light, sound and odors;

4.      withdraw from stressful surroundings

5.      get good sleep

How acupuncture treats headaches?

Acupuncture offers quick relief that could be effective in just a few minutes to hours on low back pain by the following ways:

  1. desensitizing the nerve sensation,
  2. constrict the blood vessels in the brain.
  3. relaxing the muscle spasms if they exist.
  4. reduce local inflammation if there is any.

Scheduled treatment can reduce the frequency and/or severity of episodes and wean down the dependence to drug use.

Where will I get needles? Is it painful?

Each individual will receive needles according to their underlying conditions and body’s constitution. Most of the acupuncture points don’t hurt. Patients will have a mosquito bite feelings instead. There are some points tend to hurt more than the others. We would do it carefully to avoid the discomforts.

Does it work for me?

Acupuncture treatment in relieving migraine, tension, cluster and mixed headaches has been proven effective and recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institute of Health (NIH). It has helped many patients with headache problems. It is certainly a reasonable natural modality that has its potential to help. However, “It works for many” doesn’t equal to “it works for you”. As for you, there is only one way to find out…

How much does it cost?

We charge $85 per acupuncture session. There is a $45 initial consultation fee in addition to the treatment fee. All fees above are subject to change without notice. Please call 403-233-0498 for current rate.

Does Alberta Health Care cover it?

Alberta Health Care does not cover acupuncture. However, most company benefits cover acupuncture when treatment is provided through a Registered Acupuncturist. You may contact human resources department or the insurance company for the details, including the coverage amount for each session, and a year, what the cut off day of the year is, if a medical referral is required etc..