Acupuncture for Migraines

Carlos Durana Ph.D., M.Ac. practices acupuncture in Washington D.C., Reston, Virginia, and in Bethesda, Maryland.

Millions of people suffer from migraines daily. A migraine headache is a severe pain which may be experienced on one or both sides of the head. Some may experience sensitivity to sound, light and feelings of nausea, or vomiting. Acupuncture therapy has been used in China for hundreds of years for the treatment of different types of headaches.

One of the largest studies looking at the affect of acupuncture treatment on migraines was published in The Lancet Neurology (March, 2006). Migraine patients were randomly assigned to one of these groups: traditional acupuncture therapy, sham (fake) acupuncture, and medications. Researchers found that all these treatments were equally effective in reducing the number of days the patients suffered from migraines. Forty-seven percent of participants in the acupuncture group, 40% in the medicine group and 39% in the sham acupuncture group experienced a reduction in migraines by 50% or more.

In another study published in the Journal Headache (March, 2008), research findings suggest that acupuncture treatment significantly reduces migraines and works better than drugs alone. The study, conducted at the University of Padua in Italy, included one hundred and sixty participants that were divided into four groups: traditional acupuncture therapy, sham acupuncture, another form of sham acupuncture and an untreated group. All were given the drug Rizetriptan to treat migraine attacks. After six months, only the group receiving traditional acupuncture treatment showed lasting improvement in migraine disability. Researchers theorized that acupuncture therapy may prevent migraines by altering nerve signals or by affecting the release of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.

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