by Richard Halvorsen
Acupuncture is more effective than medication at preventing migraines
A new study shows that acupuncture treatment is more effective at preventing migraines than the drug topiramate, which is generally considered to be an effective treatment for the prevention of migraine. 66 patients suffering from chronic migraine were randomised to receive either acupuncture (twice weekly for 12 weeks) or the drug topiramate over the same period. Significantly more people receiving acupuncture reported a decrease in the number of headaches they suffered in a month compared to those receiving drug treatment. Specifically 4 out of 5 people receiving acupuncture had at least a 50% reduction on the number of severe headache days they experienced per month compared to less than 1 in 3 of those on drug treatment. People receiving the acupuncture treatment were far less likely to suffer side-effects with only 1 in 17 experiencing any side-effects compared with two thirds of those taking the drug treatment. This is yet more research demonstrating that acupuncture is an effective, safe and extremely well tolerated treatment for migraine.
I have practiced acupuncture for over 25 years using bother Western and traditional Chinese techniques. My personal experience suggests that acupuncture is an extremely effective treatment for migraine, with most sufferers obtaining significant relief with a large reduction in the frequency of attacks.
Treatment usually involves 6-8 weekly treatments after which the gap between treatments can usually be extended. Sometimes long-term, but infrequent, treatment may be necessary to keep the migraines away.
Acupuncture can also be helpful in treating headaches of other causes. I find that acupuncture is most likely to be effective when these headaches are the result of muscular tension. When this is the case, then treating the tense areas of muscle, especially over the neck and top of the shoulders, can help relive the pain.
Because there are so many different causes of headache, researching the effects of treatment is difficult; nevertheless, the best research does suggest that “acupuncture could be a valuable option for patients suffering from frequent tension-like headaches”.
1 Yang CP, Chang MH, Liu PE, Li TC, HSieh CL, Hwang KL, Chang HH. Acupuncture versus topiramate in chronic migraine prophylaxis: A randomized clinical trial. Cephalalgia 2011. 31; 15: 1510-1521
2 Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Manheimer E, Vickers A, White AR. Acupuncture for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007587. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD07587.