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Dry Needling For Migraines

Dry Needling For Migraines

Headaches can interfere with your work and your daily activities. Unfortunately, migraines are much worse. They are more intense, last longer, and cause a throbbing sensation. Without proper treatment, this pain can last for days.

Although there are medications for migraines, the pain may still be persistent. Using medications for a long period can also cause severe side effects. Therefore, you need a treatment plan with minimal side effects to treat your pain.

Dry needling therapy for migraines seems like an effective treatment. But is it?

This article discusses dry needling and whether it works for migraines. We will also discuss why you should consider the treatment and its side effects. 

What Are Migraines?

Migraines are very bad headaches with throbbing sensations. You may feel symptoms like a stiff neck, increased urinating, mood changes, thirst, and tiredness just before a migraine. You could also have migraines with or without an aura.

Migraine may last between 2 hours and 3 days. However, in some cases, they may last longer. You may also experience migraines multiple times a week. These symptoms are a cause for concern. If you experience any of them, you should visit your doctor immediately. 

Your migraine may be triggered by emotional stress, caffeine, or delaying a meal. Hormonal changes and exposure to flashing lights may also make your symptoms worse.

What Is Dry Needling?

You may have heard of dry needling and wondered how it differs from acupuncture. Dry needling is a physiotherapy technique that involves the use of needles for treatment. This procedure has earned the term “dry” because the needles are dry. This means that no fluid is injected into your body.

Dry needling in Okotoks differs from acupuncture because it focuses on releasing tight muscles in your body. These tight muscles, also known as trigger points, cause pain and tension.

When you undergo a dry needling session, your physiotherapist will insert needles into certain body parts. These needles produce a twitch sound when they reach the tight muscles. After the session, you should experience improved blood circulation and pain relief.

Is Dry Needling Effective For Migraines?

Now that we have established that dry needling promotes pain relief, you may wonder if it works for migraines. If it is, will your physiotherapist insert the needles in your head?

Migraines are severe headaches that may start with a dull ache and become throbbing pain. You will feel this ache on the sides of your head, and without prompt treatment, the pain may spread to your temples and forehead.

Dry needling is effective for relieving migraines. Your physiotherapist will insert thin, thread-like needles into your trigger points to relieve pain. These trigger points may be at the top of your ear, neck, upper back, centre of your forehead, or your temples.

What Are The Benefits Of Dry Needling For Migraines?

Migraine medication may not work for you all the time. If you use this medication for longer than 10 days, it may worsen your condition or lead to other types of headaches. Your physiotherapist will recommend dry needling for your migraine due to the following;

Pain Reduction

Dry needling reduces migraine pain. The treatment releases tension at trigger points to stimulate blood flow. The new blood supply to the area then flushes out the area and releases tension.

Improved Range Of Motion

Migraines are throbbing headaches that may make it difficult for you to move your head. The pain can worsen when you move and hinder your daily activities. Dry needling relieves pain, allowing you to move your head in any direction.

Reduced Headache Intensity And Frequency

The frequency and intensity of migraine headaches vary from person to person. However, you may experience this pain several times a month. The pain may also be dull or throbbing. Dry needling can help reduce the intensity and frequency of your migraines. 

The treatment can also help reduce the duration of the pain.  So, instead of experiencing ongoing pain for days, a few dry needling sessions can reduce the duration of your headaches. 

What Happens During Dry Needling For Migraines?

When you visit your physiotherapist for a dry needling treatment, they will ensure you are comfortable. The first step in this treatment is sterilization. Your physiotherapist will sterilize the treatment area and prepare the needle. These needles are single-use and disposable.

Your physiotherapist will then use their finger to feel around the painful area. This helps them locate the trigger point. After locating this point, your physiotherapist will tap the needle into the top layer of your skin. They will then leave the needle in place for up to 20 minutes.

You may feel soreness or twitching during treatment. This shows that the treatment is working and that your muscles are responding to the treatment.

During your first dry needling session, your physiotherapist may use just one or two needles. After monitoring your response to treatment, they may increase the number of needles used to treat your migraine. 

What Should You Expect After A Dry Needling Session For Migraine?

After a dry needling for my migraines session, your physiotherapist will remove and dispose of the needles. They will also check your skin for reactions.

Afterwards, you will get up slowly. If you feel dizzy, your physiotherapist will ask you to sit and rest before leaving.

Drinking plenty of water after your treatment is ideal to stay hydrated. You should also keep moving, even if you feel sore.

Are There Side Effects Of Dry Needling For Migraines?

Yes, dry needling also has its side effects. Usually, these side effects are not severe. In the case of a severe reaction, contact your doctor immediately.

You may experience any of the following if you undergo dry needling;


Soreness is the most common side effect of dry needling. You may feel sore at the injection sites. Usually, this side effect clears up within a few minutes to a few hours.


You may experience bruising or bleeding at the needle insertion site. Fortunately, this side effect is quite rare. However, your risk of bruising increases if you have blood vessel problems or are using blood thinners. 


Fainting is also rare. You may faint after a dry needling session if you are dehydrated or hungry. Also, if you eat immediately before your session, you are at risk of fainting. 


You may experience general feelings of tiredness and fatigue after your dry needling session.

Can Everyone Get Dry Needling For Migraines?

No, dry needling is not suitable for everyone. For instance, children less than 12 years of age cannot receive the treatment because it can be quite painful. Also, if you are afraid of needles or have just had surgery, dry needling is not for you.

In addition, you may not qualify for treatment if your immune system is compromised or you are on blood thinners. 

Before starting any treatment, always consult with your physiotherapist. They can assess your health and determine if dry needling is suitable for you. They will also explain the treatment to you to ensure you understand what it entails.

How Many Dry Needling Sessions Do You Need For Migraines?

The number of dry needling sessions you need for migraines will vary. The severity and duration of your pain will determine the number of sessions you need. If your pain is acute, you may need a single session. You will notice an improvement in your symptoms within 24 to 48 hours.

If the pain is chronic, you may need several sessions. Your physiotherapist at Okotoks Physiotherapy will first start with 2 to 3 sessions. You would typically undergo these sessions once a week. With time, your physiotherapist will increase the length between your sessions.

As your treatment progresses, your body will adjust. Consequently, you will start to notice immediate results after your sessions. Soreness and other post-treatment side effects will also reduce.

How Can Physiotherapy Help With Migraines?

Dry needling is a physiotherapy technique. Your physiotherapist can combine this technique with others for pain relief. Massages and exercises can help you manage stress and promote relaxation. Relaxation reduces tension and, consequently, migraines.

You may also undergo biofeedback. Biofeedback uses a piece of equipment to measure the physical tension in your body. The equipment then alerts you if the tension is too high so that you can control your stress levels. 

Physiotherapy can also help with education for migraines. Your physiotherapist will educate you on how to prevent migraines from occurring. You will also learn lifestyle modifications that will promote relaxation, ease tension, and reduce stress.


Migraines can cause severe discomfort and affect your productivity. Dry needling is an effective alternative therapy that treats migraines. As discussed, this treatment targets specific trigger points to improve blood flow and ease tension. However, this treatment comes with its own risks.

You may not qualify for dry needling if you are pregnant, are using blood thinners, or have a compromised immune system. You should consult with your physiotherapist before commencing any treatment. 

Your physiotherapist at Dynamic Physiotherapy is patient and will listen to you. They will also develop a tailored treatment plan to address your specific concerns.

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