A new JAMA Internal Medicine study finds that treatment with acupuncture may reduce the frequency of these debilitating headaches.
For the more than 90 percent of migraine sufferers who are unable to work or function during an attack, this may come as promising news.
The randomized clinical trial, conducted at three separate sites in China, involved 249 migraine sufferers who experienced an average of two to eight migraines per month. About one-third received true acupuncture treatments, which targeted a set of four points used in traditional headache treatment, five times a week for four weeks. Another third received “sham” treatments, where needles were placed at random points with no clinical efficacy, on the same schedule. The final third was added to a treatment waiting list.
At 16 weeks, the group receiving “true” acupuncture experienced an average of three fewer headaches per month. The participants in the “sham” group experienced two fewer headaches a month.
The one-less-monthly-headache advantage to the group receiving true acupuncture was statistically significant enough for study authors to suggest that “acupuncture should be considered as one option for migraine prophylaxis.”
As for the reduction in headaches in the “sham” group, the power of the placebo effect is the focus of other ongoing research. And, in the opinion of many clinicians, whose priorities are patient well-being and not study results, relief is relief.
For more on why acupuncture works, see “Acupuncture: Getting to the Point.”