Acupuncture and Migraine

7 April 2008

    Women who opt for acupuncture instead of a drug to prevent migraines report feeling fewer symptoms, fewer attacks, and less side effects from the treatment, new study findings report. The study, carried out at the Woman's Headache Centre at the University of Turin, Italy, compared the effect of acupuncture with oral flunarizine in preventing non-aura migraine over a 6-month period. The 160 women enrolled in the study had experienced headaches at least twice a month in the year prior to the study and had had no previous experience of acupuncture. Acupuncture was given once a week for the first 2 months and then once a month for the next 4 months. The flunarizine group received the drug daily for the first 2 months and then for 20 days per month for the next 4 months. The frequency of headaches and the use of symptomatic drugs significantly decreased during treatment in both groups, however the number of attacks after 2 and 4 months of treatment was significantly lower in the acupuncture group, as was analgesic consumption after 2 months of treatment. At six months however, no such differences existed between the two treatment groups. Pain intensity was significantly reduced only by acupuncture treatment and side effects were significantly less frequent in the acupuncture group - overall, women taking flunarizine were more likely than those receiving acupuncture to drop out of the study, for reasons that included depression, weight gain and sleepiness. (Headache 2002, Vol. 42(9) p.855-861).
    A study carried out in Austria has demonstrated the long-term benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of migraine. 26 patients were treated by local and distal body points, once weekly, for between 6 and 13 treatments. The majority showed reduced frequency of attacks and use of analgesics. Significantly, a follow-up survey showed maintained improvement over a 3-year period. (Headache, 1995; 35(8): 472- 474).
    Italian researchers have conducted a trial on migraine sufferers that attempts to separate the specific effects of a true TCM acupuncture treatment from the effects of both standard sham acupuncture and a mock “acupuncture healing ritual'. One hundred and sixty patients were divided into four groups: true acupuncture (TA) plus normal drug therapy (Rizatriptan), ritualised mock acupuncture (RMA) plus Rizatriptan, standard mock acupuncture (SMA) plus Rizatriptan and Rizatriptan only (R). The Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) Questionnaire was administered before treatment and at three (T1) and six months (T2) from beginning treatment, and the MIDAS Index (MI) was calculated. Rizatriptan intake was also checked in all groups of patients. All groups underwent a significant decrease of MI at T(1) and T(2), compared with T(0). TA was the only treatment that provided a significant improvement at both T(1) and T(2) compared with the use of Rizatriptan only (R). The RMA group showed a transient improvement of MI at T(1), suggesting that part of the treatment's benefits may be due to non-needle effects of the acupuncture procedure. (Traditional Acupuncture in Migraine: A Controlled, Randomized Study. Headache. 2007 Sep 14 [Epub ahead of print]).

: Acupuncture

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