Migraine Relief with Acupuncture

Migraine Relief with Acupuncture

26 September 2018 by Caitlin Armit

Migraine Relief with Acupuncture

In 2016, The Cochrane Database Systematic Review published an article Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine as an update to their 2009 review. Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

What was in the review?

The review included randomized trials at least eight weeks in duration to investigate whether acupuncture is:

  1. a) more effective than no prophylactic treatment/routine care only;
  2. b) more effective than sham (placebo) acupuncture; and
  3. c) as effective as prophylactic treatment with drugs in reducing headache frequency in adults with episodic migraine.

The primary outcome measure was migraine frequency after treatment and at follow-up. The secondary outcome was response (at least 50% reduction).

The review included 22 trials with a total of 4985 participants and the overall quality of evidence was rated as ‘moderate.’

Review Findings

In trials where acupuncture was compared to no acupuncture, the acupuncture treatment was associated with a moderate reduction of headache frequency after treatment (41% at least halved the frequency) compared to no acupuncture (17% at least halved the frequency). A significant benefit was found 12 months after randomisation in one of these trials.

In trials where acupuncture was compared to sham ‘placebo’ acupuncture, acupuncture had a small but statistically significant frequency reduction compared to sham acupuncture both at after-treatment and at follow up. After treatment headache frequency at least halved in 50% of the acupuncture patients (53% at follow up) at 41% of those receiving sham acupuncture (42% at follow up).

In trials where acupuncture was compared to prophylactic drug treatment, acupuncture reduced frequency significantly more than medication, though the significance was not maintained at follow up. At three months follow up, headache frequency had at least halved in 57% of the acupuncture patients (59% at six months follow up) and 46% of medication patients (54% at six month follow up). Acupuncture patients were less likely to report adverse effects or drop out due to adverse effects compared to the medication patients.

Review Conclusions – Is Acupuncture effective for migraines?

The authors conclude that “adding acupuncture to symptomatic treatment of attacks reduces the frequency of headaches” and that “acupuncture can be considered a treatment option for patients willing to undergo this treatment.”



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