Pinpointing a pain cure; Acupuncture is better than strong painkillers at treating migraines, a study shows. Sammy Winward is one of a growing number of sufferers who has tried the needles.
SAMMY Winward knows the misery of migraine. The blonde teenager who plays Katie Addyman in Emmerdale has been a sufferer since the age of five.
Migraine affects about 20 per cent of women and six per cent of men - six million Britons in all.
But Sammy, 17, is one of the growing number of sufferers who have turned to acupuncture in an attempt to combat the effects.
As a small child, Sammy was plunged into misery several times a week as she endured migraines.
"I'd regularly have two or three very severe migraines a week," says Sammy. "They crippled me. Being so young, I didn't know what was wrong and felt frightened.
"I'd get terrible headaches followed by vomiting. It was a regular occurrence, and there seemed to be nothing that anyone could do about it as I was too young to be prescribed aspirin.
"I became tired and weak from the constant headaches and as a result of being up all night being sick. I became so tired that my school work suffered. Quite often, I simply felt too exhausted to go to school.
"Things were so bad that I'd be crying with pain. These weren't simply headaches, but full-blown migraines. I hadn't a clue what was causing them; all I knew was that I was in agony. We looked at all the different reasons why I might be suffering at such a young age, including diet, allergies and genetics, but without success."
Sammy feared the illness would ruin any chance of a career. She says: "My mother has always been a firm believer in alternative medicines, so when I was about 10, she suggested I try acupuncture. She'd heard of a place in Bolton, close to where we lived, so she booked for me to go along."
Acupuncture needles are said to relax the nervous system around central pain pathways and promote the release of endorphins, the body's own feel-good chemicals.
"At first I was nervous about having pins stuck all over me but I just felt I had to try anything to overcome the migraine. I lay down and had 20 or 30 pins placed all over my body. Despite my fears that it would be painful, I only felt the odd twinge. After a few minutes I relaxed and my nerves disappeared.
"The session lasted about half an hour and I went on a three-month course. And it worked. I'm still prone to migraines but the frequency has really fallen. I now only get about one a month, usually around the time of my period.
"It makes life so much more bearable. If the acupuncture hadn't worked, there's no way I'd be able to work as I do.
"These days I still visit the acupuncturist just to keep up the good work but I've also learned to manage my health better by watching my diet and trying to avoid chocolate, which can trigger a headache."
Some experts now believe acupuncture is more effective than drugs in relieving migraine. Researchers conducted a trial of 160 patients at the Woman's Headache Centre in the Italian city of Turin.
Dr Gianni Allais and colleagues found that women who received weekly acupuncture had fewer migraines than those taking the drug flunarizine, used to prevent blinding headaches, during the first four months of treatment. They also needed less painkilling medication.
In the study, reported in the journal Headache, both groups experienced fewer headaches, but patients who used acupuncture had an average of 2.3 migraines in the first four months of the study, compared to 2.9 among those taking flunarizine.
Sammy doesn't need any more convincing. She says: "I was willing to try anything. Now I'm a complete convert."
NEEDLED: Sammy beats migraine with jabs; PAIN KILLER: Acupuncture
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|Title Annotation:||M Health|
|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Apr 3, 2003|
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