A Review of Conventional Medicine and Acupuncture in the Treatment of Migraine
Migraine is a chronic, episodic disorder causing persistent headaches, commonly characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head that lasts at least four hours and can continue for days (Araki, 2004). In 90 percent of attacks there is accompanying nausea and delayed gastric emptying (Barkin, Lubenow, Bruehl, et al, 2003). Sensitivity to light (photophobia) or sound (phonophobia), or visual disturbances may accompany migraine headaches and may be exacerbated by movement or physical activity (Lipton, Stewart, & Simon, 1998). The frequency of attacks can very from two to three per year to two or more per week (O'Brien, Goeree & Streiner, 2004).
An estimated eight percent of Canadians, aged 12 or older have received a clinical diagnosis of migraine (Kryst & Scherl, 1999). However, this number greatly underestimates migraine prevalence because many sufferers do not seek medical attention (Lipton, Stewart & Simon, 1998), and many of those who do remain undiagnosed. Migraine is three times more common in females (11.7 percent) than males (3.8 percent) (O'Brien, Goeree & Streiner, 2004). Hormonal fluctuations that women experience related to menstruation, oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, menopause and hormone replacement therapy appear to influence migraine prevalence (Silberstein, 1999). However, a sustained higher incidence of migraine in women in older age suggests the existence of additional factors that have not yet been identified.
A migraine may occur spontaneously with no apparent reason, but quite often occurs in response to known triggers. Common triggers for migraine include environmental factors, tyramine containing foods, sulfites, nitrites and monosodium glutamate (Davidoff, 2001). Hormonal triggers involve fluctuating estrogen levels (Silberstein, 1997). Other triggers are related to lifestyle, such as stressful events, overexertion, fasting or dieting, excessive sleep, anger or depression. (Pearce, 2004).
A specific group of neurological symptoms called aura often precede or accompany the headache phase of a...