Acupuncture is a treatment often recommended for migraines. Although the risks of acupuncture are relatively low compared to other available treatments for migraines, a recent study investigates the long-term effects of acupuncture therapy.
Migraines are a leading cause of disability in the category of neurological conditions. Between 25% and 38% of individuals with migraines require preventative treatment. Pharmacological treatments for migraines are available, however, they pose high risks of adverse effects such as fatigue, weight gain, and gastrointestinal intolerance. Due to these side effects, acupuncture is often suggested as an alternative, low-risk treatment. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Internal Medicine analyzes long-term effects of acupuncture therapy in response to migraines.
A randomized clinical trial was conducted over a 4-week treatment period. Results were recorded for the following 20 weeks as well. Individuals were placed into one of three categories: patients receiving true acupuncture, patients receiving sham acupuncture, and patients on a waiting-list control group. 249 participants spanning the ages of 18 to 65 were included in the study. All participants were identified as experiencing migraines based on pre-determined criteria, and with a frequency of 2 to 8 times a month. Participants were asked to maintain diaries to record migraines.
The study identified a significant change in the frequency of migraines at the 16-week point. The greatest decrease in frequency was identified in the true acupuncture group, followed by the sham acupuncture group. The control group had the smallest change in frequency. A significant difference was recorded between the true acupuncture category and the sham acupuncture category, while there was no statistical difference between the sham acupuncture category and the control group. The study concluded that true acupuncture may be related to reduced migraine frequency in comparison to sham acupuncture or assignment to a waiting list.
The study revealed beneficial information in favour of acupuncture therapy to treat migraines. As it was initially identified, acupuncture therapy provided a low-risk alternative to the pharmacological treatments available for migraines. The study confirms the efficacy of acupuncture therapy in preventing future migraines. Based on the data, medical and health care professionals may be increasingly encouraged to recommend acupuncture as a treatment for migraines. These results further indicate that acupuncture is an efficient therapy with minimal side effects, providing optimal results for patients experiencing migraines.
Written By: Shrishti Ahuja, BSc