Acupuncture Cured The Migraine That Made My Life Unbearable

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Does Acupuncture For Migraine Symptoms Work?

The pain was unreal.

2013 was the most hectic year of my life.

I had just returned from a semester abroad in Australia. While I was away, Hurricane Sandy destroyed my home which meant that, upon returning back to the States, I was technically homeless. I was sleeping in the living room at my grandmom’s house while working 40 hours a week as a server while also commuting eight hours a week to school where I was completing my last semester of six classes.

To top it all off, I was suffering from almost daily migraines that were absolutely, completely, totally unbearable.

To be honest, the migraine symptoms were so strange I didn’t even know it was a migraine at first. It started subtly, a dull pain at the base of my head. The headaches didn’t happen that often and, though uncomfortable, the chronic pain was still bearable.

Until it wasn’t.

Eventually, it evolved into a sharp pain, still localized at the base of my head but with an additional shooting pain into my left eye. It was so severe that it was actually affecting the muscles in my back and neck, tightening them to the point that my muscles felt like rocks, an unfortunate cycle that probably made the migraines worse.

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At first, I could manage the headaches with Excedrin. But as the migraines got worse and more frequent, Excedrin didn’t even make a dent in the pain.

Eventually, I figured that even though I couldn’t get rid of the migraine, I might be able to relieve some of the negative effects that came with it. I went to see a chiropractor in hopes that would help loosen up the muscles in my back and neck. She sent me for X-rays, which revealed that I had a retrolisthesis towards the top of my spine. This meant that instead of being neatly stacked, one of the vertebrae in my neck had somehow slipped backward. According to the chiropractor, this was likely pulling the muscles around my left shoulder blade, a strain that resulted in the migraines.

The chiropractor suggested a visit her twice a month to get adjusted, which I did for a while. I found that the adjustments did alleviate (but not prevent) the migraine pain, and learned when I started feeling a migraine coming on a could crack my neck (bad habit, I know — but desperate times call for desperate measures!) to keep it at bay.

Unfortunately, the chiropractic visits really started draining my bank account, and since I wasn’t seeing any long-term migraine relief, I stopped going. The migraines, however, continued on.

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The only time I found relief was when I was sleeping. Whenever I felt a migraine coming on, I’d have to take a nap, which obviously wasn’t always possible. If I couldn’t sleep I’d suffer through it, and developed the subconscious habit of massaging the muscles around my left shoulder blade in a (futile) attempt to relieve the headache. At one point, I specifically remember walking down the stairs crying in my grandmom’s house one night thinking, “is this how I have to live the rest of my life? Is it worth it?”

After a good six months or so of the painful migraines, my mom suggested I try acupuncture. She had tried it herself for chronic pain and was happy with the results. At this point, there was not one treatment method I would’ve turned down, so I made an appointment with a local acupuncturist.

When I arrived, I was surprised to find the building was very calm, a lot like a spa. I was brought into a room and described my symptoms to the acupuncturist and laid on my stomach on a massage table with my bare back exposed. The acupuncturist placed needles all around my back. The muscles around my left shoulder blade were so tight I could literally feel them closing around the needles.

After the acupuncturist placed all of the needles, he left the room for about 20 minutes. I won’t lie, I had a mini panic attack when I thought too hard about the fact that there were a ton of needles just sticking out of my back. Eventually, though, I relaxed. When the acupuncturist returned, he removed the needles and a massage therapist massaged my back.

I returned twice more, each time with fewer migraines in between visits. Now, five years later, I very rarely get those awful headaches and have less back pain.

I absolutely do not know how acupuncture works, but I am so glad it does. It’s considered a pseudoscience and some have suggested that it has a placebo effect instead of true pain relief, but it’s made my life livable and I’d definitely suggest it to anyone struggling with chronic pain.

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Micki Spollen is a YourTango editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.