June Camden* had her first migraine at 14. Within a few years her headaches had escalated from monthly to daily attacks. Over the years she saw countless neurologists, migraine specialists, chiropractors, naturopaths and allergists to search for answers. She tried chiropractic massage and a medley of medications, but they only masked the pain, and the relief didn’t last.
Over the years, June tried to pinpoint what set off her migraines. She began removing entire food groups from her diet. A bite of cheese was enough to propel her into serious pain, so she ditched dairy. Her naturopath also advised her to cut out gluten and sugar. June lost 15 pounds, but her headaches persisted. Always physically active in the past, June soon found exercise only aggravated her symptoms. Eventually she stopped doing the things she loved.
After she’d endured a decade of suffering, June’s father told her about a migraine whisperer named Brendan Cleary whom he’d heard about on the radio. She figured she had nothing to lose and paid Cleary a visit.
Cleary, a doctor of acupuncture, runs the Ontario Migraine Clinic in Georgetown, Ont. “People come to me when they’ve run out of choices,” he says. His treatment plans include Eastern medicine and psychological tests, but it’s his unique acupuncture style that’s the main attraction. “My technique is designed to stimulate the nervous system to react more quickly. It’s like going to the gym to build strength, only in this case you get neurologically fitter, so you can respond better to triggers.”
Cleary began the first appointment by checking June’s heartbeat. “The pulse reveals a lot about the body’s strengths and weaknesses,” he says. He told June that the body has the power to repair itself, though chronic injuries may mean that it can’t fix things on its own — and this is where acupuncture can help.
Next, Cleary strategically placed five needles on June’s body. He gently twisted and pulsed the needles. “Yes, it was uncomfortable, but after 10 minutes my migraine pain completely disappeared,” says June. “It was surreal.”
He tested her ear for referred pain (her migraine discomfort often radiated down to her shoulders and back as well) and then taped a mustard seed on the most painful spot on her ear. “Whenever I pressed it as hard as I could for a few seconds, the pain would fade. It was mind-blowing.”
June went home after her 30-minute session and slept through her first full night in years. “The next morning I stayed in bed and cried. For the first time in 12 years, I woke without pain.”
June continued to visit the clinic for treatments twice weekly for four months. That was six years ago and she hasn’t had a headache since.
*Name has been changed.