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Acupuncture for Migraines

Acupuncture Eases Migraine Headache Pain

Acupuncture May Be Cost-Effective Option for Treating Chronic HeadacheByJennifer Warner
WebMD Health NewsReviewed byBrunilda Nazario, MD

March 15, 2004 -- Acupuncture may provide lasting relief fromthe pain of chronic headaches, such as migraines, according to a new study.

Researchers found that compared with standard medical care,acupuncture offers substantial benefits in preventing headaches and improvingthe quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, especiallymigraines.

Acupuncture is commonly used to treat other types of chronicpain, but researchers say this is the first large-scale study to examine theeffectiveness of acupuncture under real-life conditions. They say the resultsindicate that health insurance coverage of acupuncture services should beexpanded to include the treatment of chronic headaches and migraine.

Pins and Needles Ease Migraine Pain

In the study, published in the March 15 issue of the BritishMedical Journal, researchers randomly divided 401 adults aged 18-65 yearsold with chronic headache (at least two headaches a month) -- into twotreatment groups. Participants had a history of having mostly migraineheadaches.

One group received up to 12 acupuncture sessions during athree-month period in addition to standard medical care, and the other groupreceived standard care alone.

A year later, researchers found those who receivedacupuncture:

  • Experienced 22 fewer days with headaches
  • Used 15% less medication
  • Made 25% fewer visits to their doctor
  • Took 15% fewer days off sick from work than the control group

Researchers say one limitation of their study is that thecontrol group did not receive a sham acupuncture intervention. Therefore, someof the benefits found among the acupuncture group may have not been caused bythe actual treatment but because of the "placebo effect," which isbased on the patient's expectations of benefit from treatment rather than theeffectiveness of the treatment itself.

But researchers say previous placebo-controlled studies havealready shown that acupuncture is superior to placebo in treating migraine.

In a related study published in the same journal, Britishresearchers found that acupuncture improves the quality of life for people withchronic headaches at a small additional cost. They say the findings show thatacupuncture is a relatively cost-effective headache therapy compared with othertreatments covered by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.