Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for migraine relief


Acupuncture is a cost-effective and safe treatment modality for the relief or elimination of migraines. Researchers at Harvard Medical School, Georgetown University, Arizona University, Creighton University, and Louisiana State University report findings showing that acupuncture reduces blood pressure. frequency, intensity and duration of migraine attacks. [1] The survey team says patients receiving acupuncture are also less prone to secondary anxiety attacks and depression.

Globally, migraines affect 14.7% of the world’s population. [2] According to research from the Mayo Clinic, 1.5% of the American population has received acupuncture treatment; however, migraines afflict 15.3% of the population of the United States. [3] Women are disproportionately affected, with 9.7% of men and 20.7% of American women suffering from migraines. [4]

The research team notes that their results are consistent with several previous studies and surveys. A Cochrane systematic review concludes that acupuncture reduces the duration and frequency of migraines. [5] The team points out that many studies conclude that real acupuncture is superior to a sham acupuncture intervention. [6, 7]

The meta-analysis included many research sources, including essential research completed in 2018. Researchers discovered specific neurochemical responses to acupuncture using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This type of imaging is similar to conventional MRI; however, magnetic resonance spectroscopy adds the use of ions or protons to measure changes in chemical metabolism in the brain. Using this very advanced technology, the researchers made an important discovery.

Brain metabolites (eg N-acetylaspartate, creatine) are involved in the transmission of pain due to migraines. For example, N-acetylaspartate (NAA) levels decrease during migraine attacks. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy confirms that acupuncture causes a significant increase in the levels of N-acetylaspartate and creatine in the thalamus. The increases provided by acupuncture therapy correlated with decreases in migraine intensity levels. [8] Accordingly, the effects of acupuncture on normalizing brain metabolic activity demonstrate a role in reducing pain due to migraines.

Another study in the review finds that auricular acupuncture (ear acupuncture) is effective in reducing the number of migraine days per month in patients with chronic migraines after one month of acupuncture treatment. [9] In 2020, a revolutionary retrospective study of 21,209 patients suffering from migraines confirms the effectiveness of acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to be cost effective for treating migraines. In addition, acupuncture reduced the risk of depression and anxiety. A thirteen-year follow-up revealed that migraine patients receiving acupuncture had significantly less incidences of depression and anxiety. [10]

University researchers reviewed many other surveys in their meta-analysis. To ensure that the conclusions were based on quality evidence, randomized controlled trials using strict dummy controls were evaluated. Consistently, real acupuncture has produced superior results for patients compared to sham acupuncture. [11]

A 2018 study specifically looked at how acupuncture produces immediate relief. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing the intensity of migraine directly after acupuncture therapy. [12] This complements the results of other surveys finding that acupuncture is effective in producing long term results. Another multicenter, double-blind, randomized controlled trial reported in the meta-analysis reveals that acupuncture is effective in preventing migraine attacks. After 20 acupuncture visits, the incidence of migraine attacks was significantly reduced compared to sham controls. [13]

A major study included in the meta-analysis reveals that acupuncture is more effective than pharmacological intervention. After 12 weeks of acupuncture or drug treatment, the acupuncture group had significantly fewer migraine days. The results were immediate and a 6-month follow-up (post-treatment) confirmed that acupuncture produced fewer days with migraines. [14]

Another study compared the effectiveness of three treatment modalities for people with migraine: botulinum toxin A, sodium valproate, and acupuncture. Acupuncture produced the greatest reduction in pain intensity levels at the end of the three-month investigation. [15] The researchers note that all three methods produced results, but acupuncture produced superior clinical results with fewer adverse events.

Another study from the meta-analysis was originally published in JAMA Internal Medicine (Journal of the American Medical Association). The three-armed investigation compared real acupuncture, sham acupuncture and a control group. True acupuncture produced fewer migraine attacks, fewer days total with migraines, and fewer overall migraine symptoms compared to the sham and control groups. [16]

The study also looked at other meta-analyzes. A meta-analysis of ten randomized controlled trials involving 997 participants found real acupuncture to be more effective than sham acupuncture. True acupuncture produced a lower rate of migraine recurrence than sham acupuncture. [17] Another meta-analysis of 62 clinical trials involving 4,947 participants found that acupuncture produced better clinical results one month after treatment compared to pharmacological drugs. The researchers concluded that “acupuncture is more effective than no treatment, dummy treatment, or drugs to treat and prevent migraines and is also associated with greater improvement in quality of life compared to to drugs “. [18]

Another meta-analysis included 13 randomized controlled trials involving 1,559 patients. Researchers have determined that acupuncture is effective for treating migraines and also shows signs of effective treatment for depression and anxiety. [19] Another meta-analysis of 22 trials involving 4,985 patients concludes that real acupuncture is more effective for treating migraines than sham acupuncture and drugs. They strongly recommend acupuncture as an adjunct to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. [20]

An fMRI study reviewed in the meta-analysis reveals that acupuncture is effective in restoring normal brain connectivity in patients with migraine headaches, thereby effectively treating the disease by producing meaningful therapeutic neural responses. The researchers concluded that the decrease in functional connectivity imbalances of the right fronto-parietal network can be reversed by acupuncture therapy for patients with migraines. [21]

The references:
[1] Urits, Ivan, Megha Patel, Mary Elizabeth Putz, Nikolas R. Monteferrante, Diep Nguyen, Daniel An, Elyse M. Cornett, Jamal Hasoon, Alan D. Kaye and Omar Viswanath. “Acupuncture and Its Role in the Treatment of Migraines.” Neurology and Therapy (2020): 1-20. Author affiliations:
Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Anesthesiology, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona.
Department of Anesthesiology, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska.
Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.
Department of Anesthesiology, Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, Shreveport, Louisiana.
Valley Pain Consultants – Envision Physician Services, Phoenix, Arizona.

[2] Natoli J, Manack A, Dean B, et al. Global prevalence of chronic migraine: a systematic review. Headache. 2010; 30 (5): 599-609.
[3] Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based assessment of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016; 91 (9): 1292–306.
[4] Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based assessment of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016; 91 (9): 1292–306.
[5] Coeytaux RR, Befus D. Role of acupuncture in the treatment or prevention of migraine, tension headaches or chronic headaches. Headache. 2016; 56 (7): 1238–40.
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[7] Steiner TJ, Jensen R, Katsarava Z, et al. Aids in the management of headache disorders in primary care (2nd edition). J Headache Pain. 2019; 8:57 p.m.
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[9] Allais G, Sinigaglia S, Airola G, et al. Auricular acupuncture in the prophylactic treatment of chronic migraine. Neurol Sci. 2019; 40 (1): 211-2.
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[13] Xu S, Yu L, Luo X et al. Manual acupuncture versus sham acupuncture and usual care for the prophylaxis of episodic migraine without aura: a multicenter randomized clinical trial. BMJ. 2020; 368: m697.
[14] Musil F, Pokladnikova J, Pavlek Z, Wang B, Guan X, Valisˇ M. Acupuncture in migraine prophylaxis in Czech patients: an open randomized controlled trial. Neuropsychiatrist Dis Treat. 2018; 14: 1221–8.
[15] Naderinabi B, Saberi A, Hashemi M, et al. Acupuncture and botulinum toxin A injection in the treatment of chronic migraine: a randomized controlled study. Casp J Intern Med. 2017; 8 (3): 196-204.
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[17] Yang Y, Que Q, Ye X, Hua ZG. Verum versus sham manual acupuncture for migraine: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Acupunct Med. 2016; 34 (2): 76-83.
[18] Jiang Y, Bai P, Chen H, Zhang XY, Tang XY, Chen HQ, et al. The effect of acupuncture on the quality of life of migraine patients: a systematic review and a meta-analysis. Before Pharmacol. 2018; 9: 1190.
[19] Li X, Dai Q, Shi Z et al. Clinical efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture in the treatment of migraine: a systematic review and a network meta-analysis. Am J Chin Med. 2019; 47 (8): 1755–80.
[20] Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B,, et al. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016; (6): CD001218.
[21] Li K, Zhang Y, Ning Y et al. The effects of acupuncture treatment on the right fronto-parietal network in migraine patients without aura. J Headache Pain. 2015; 16:33.

Continuing education credits in acupuncture


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