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According to the results of previous research studies, acupuncture may be as effective as traditional medicines in treating migraines. In the largest study to date, 47 percent of people who received this treatment experienced a reduction of migraine days by at least 50 percent. If you are thinking about preventing migraines with acupuncture, it's important to find a practitioner who is licensed and certified.
An Overview of Acupuncture for MigrainesAcupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific body points to improve health and well-being. It originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. Acupuncture is used by an estimated 2 million adults in the United States each year.
Some people try acupuncture as a way to prevent migraines. Research studies have shown that the practice may help prevent migraine headaches.
What Does the Research Say About Migraines and Acupuncture?The acupuncture technique that has been scientifically studied the most involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are then manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. In recent years, scientific inquiry has begun to shed more light on acupuncture's possible mechanisms and potential benefits, especially in treating painful conditions such as migraines.
The largest study looking at migraine prevention through acupuncture was published in the March 2006 edition of The Lancet Neurology. In this study, patients who had two to six migraine headaches per month were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
- Traditional acupuncture.
- Sham (fake) acupuncture. In sham acupuncture, needles are inserted into areas of the skin at which no traditional acupuncture points exist.
- Preventive migraine medications (beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, or seizure medications).
Patients in the acupuncture groups received 10 sessions of acupuncture treatment in 6 weeks. Those who took medicines continued them throughout the length of the study. The primary outcome was the difference in migraine days between 4 weeks before the study and 23 to 26 weeks after the study began.
These research scientists found that all three migraine treatments were equally effective at reducing the number of days the participants suffered from migraines. Traditional acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and migraine medicines were associated with average reductions of 2.3, 1.5, and 2.1 migraine days, respectively. All three reductions were significantly different from the before-study measurement but were not significantly different from each other.
Forty-seven percent of participants in the traditional acupuncture group, 39 percent of those in the sham acupuncture group, and 40 percent of those in the standard group experienced a reduction of migraine days by 50 percent or more.