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I tried acupuncture and massage for my migraines — here’s my story

Published in Brain & Spine Care, Neurosciences, Neurology, For the Health of It Author: Alyssa Monson

Registered Dietitian
CentraCare Weight Management

For as long as I can remember I have had “headaches.” As a kid, I remember a couple times they were so bad I would get sick and end up vomiting. I always just thought that I was reacting badly to the ibuprofen my mom would give me to help with the pain. My mom, brother and sister also had these “headaches.” We just never called them what they were.


Ugh, the light and sound sensitivity, the auras, the throbbing pain. For me, migraines were just something I dealt with. My treatment plan included going to the chiropractor regularly, taking Excedrin Migraine, laying down in a dark room, and hoping and praying it didn’t get so bad I would vomit. It worked OK most of the time. I never missed work and I rarely missed out on any activities because — most of the time — I knew what triggered them and was able to adjust my lifestyle accordingly.

That all changed for me early 2018 when I began getting migraines multiple times per week. Excedrin wasn’t touching them anymore, my work was suffering, my home life was suffering and I realized, at 27 years old, this is not normal.

At this point you are probably thinking, aren’t there migraine medications you can take? Yes, but as with most medications, with some side effects, and with pain as severe and often as mine, I felt there was more going on, so I decided to give acupuncture and massage at Lifestyle Health a try.

I had tried acupuncture for dry eye previously with great results, so I felt confident Josh would be able to help me out with my migraines. Acupuncture is virtually painless. Aside from the tiny little pin prick when the needle goes in and the slight pressure as he adjusts the needle, I didn’t feel much. I am probably the worst client because I guess you are supposed to relax during this, but I find Chinese Medicine fascinating so I was bombarding him with questions. Josh was very informative and answered every single one of my questions with gentle reminders that part of what helps acupuncture work is relaxing and clearing your mind… Oops. Once he got the needles in and he left the room, I did really relax. Josh also encouraged me to treat myself to at least a 30-minute upper body massage to help increase the effectiveness of my treatments.

A month or two later, I had my very first massage. It just took me that long to build up the courage to schedule; I was nervous to let someone into my personal space. I decided on an hour-long massage with Shawn. The first 5 or 10 minutes of our visit was spent discussing my symptoms. I knew I was in the right place when he said, “I am confident I can get rid of your migraines for good.” He also paired that with, “if you follow my instructions.”

That’s the cool thing about Lifestyle Health Massage therapists. If needed, they will set up treatment plans to help manage and treat conditions. It’s similar to when you work with physical therapy and you have at home exercise to do. The massage itself was relaxing. There were times that there was some pain, but nothing more than what you feel when you stretch your sore muscles a little too far. Shawn was great at reminding me that if the pain is more than I could breathe through, I needed to let him know. I left that day feeling super relaxed, with a follow-up massage scheduled and a set of stretches to do.

I am now five acupuncture visits and four massages in. I do my stretches at least three times per week and visit the chiropractor periodically. The best part? I have taken Excedrin Migraine only once or twice since that first acupuncture visit over six months ago and have had maybe three migraines and a few small headaches since. A HUGE change from multiple migraines per week with just a few appointments and no weird side effects. I also have started using both to help treat other ailments as well including stress relief, pain from old sports injuries as well as some quality self-care. I really look forward to my appointments as a time for myself. They are a way to slow down and breathe in this crazy, loud and stressful world we live in. To me, massage and acupuncture are no longer a luxury — they are a necessity.