New research concludes that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines. The study, entitled “The long-term effect of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis: a randomized clinical trial”, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Investigators concluded that acupuncture reduced migraine frequency, duration, and intensity. Today’s post reviews this migraine acupuncture research.
This migraine acupuncture research compared true acupuncture to sham (fake) acupuncture, where fake points are used instead of real ones. Participants receiving the sham treatment think they are receiving real acupuncture, but the needles are placed in “non-acupuncture” locations. This allows researchers to evaluate if the real acupuncture points have true benefit, or if it is just placebo.
They concluded that the true acupuncture provided long-term clinical benefits to migraine sufferers, reducing pain levels, intensity and duration. In addition, acupuncture reduces the frequency of recurrent migraines. All in all, the study determined that acupuncture played a significant therapeutic role in easing migraines for patients.
Additional Benefits of Acupuncture
They added that acupuncture produced an additional benefit. Patients receiving true acupuncture demonstrated significant improvements in the “emotional domain of quality of life.” The research team concluded, “Acupuncture should be considered as one option for migraine prophylaxis in light of our findings.”
Migraines – A National Problem
Migraines are debilitating, painful, and widespread. In the United States, millions of people suffer from migraines each year. Researchers from the Department of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine surveyed the US population and concluded that the number of people with migraines has increased from 23.6 million in 1989 to 27.9 million in 1999. Migraine is an important target for public health intervention because it is highly prevalent and disabling. This statistic drives home the need to integrate acupuncture into mainstream clinical settings to provide critical relief for millions of people worldwide.
Migraine Acupuncture Research
This migraine acupuncture research study was a multi-site, randomized clinical trial assessing the benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic migraines. This research stood out in many ways. First, in contrast with many earlier trials, the team followed subjects over a longer period of time (24 weeks). Second, the study involved the use of electroacupuncture. Many trials have used manual acupuncture but there have been very few trials using electroacupuncture.
Third, the migraine acupuncture research involved activating the qi (called “deqi”). This is a superior method of acupuncture where the patient feels a slightly dull, achy sensation at the site of the needle. Chinese medicine theory states that obtaining deqi enhances outcomes. At Raleigh Acupuncture we have come to the same conclusion.
Participants in Migraine Study
The 24-week, randomized study included 249 subjects (189 women and 69 men). Participants were required to have migraines without aura with an incidence rate of 2 to 8 times a month. Subjects were divided into three groups. Group 1 received true acupuncture, administered at acupuncture points based on the consensus of clinical experts.
Group 2 was given sham (fake) acupuncture at 4 non-acupuncture points. Both groups received electrostimulation of the needles. Group 3 was the wait list group and received no treatment during the study.
The researchers stated that true acupuncture “was more efficacious for migraine prophylaxis than sham acupuncture or no acupuncture, and the improvement induced by acupuncture persists for at least 24 weeks.”
The researchers made two other important discoveries. First, true acupuncture reduced pain intensity levels of the migraines. Second, it simultaneously reduced the overall duration of migraines. The researchers concluded, “Compared with sham acupuncture and wait list control groups, true acupuncture manifested persisting superiority and clinically relevant benefits for at least 24 weeks in migraine prophylaxis, including reducing the number of migraine frequency and days with migraine, as well as decreasing pain intensity.”
Migraine Study Design
This migraine acupuncture research study utilized licensed acupuncturists with a minimum of 5 years training and 4 years acupuncture clinical experience. Groups 1 and 2 used the same number of needles, electrostimulation of points, and duration of treatment time. However, sham acupuncture patients did not receive deqi stimulation. Wait list patients did not receive any treatment but were informed that they would received acupuncture after completion of the study.
Both the true acupuncture and sham acupuncture patients received 20 sessions of electroacupuncture at a rate of once a day, for 5 consecutive days. A two day break followed each session prior to applying the next round of sessions. Each acupuncture treatment lasted 30 minutes and the total duration of acupuncture therapy sessions lasted 4 weeks.
Participants, all of which suffered from migraines without aura, received no form of Western medications for migraines. Ibuprofen (300 mg) was allowed as a rescue medication for severe headaches and was logged into the data.
Acupuncture Points Used In Migraine Research
Four acupuncture points were used for each acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture point prescriptions were based on a “systematic review of ancient and modern literature,” consultation with experts, and prior research. Two primary acupuncture points were applied to all participants in the true acupuncture group:
Fengchi, GB20 (Wind Pool)
Shuaigu, GB8 (Leading Valley)
An additional 2 acupuncture points were allowed based on syndrome differentiation and headache location based upon presentation along acupuncture meridians. The additional 2 acupoints were limited to a pre-selected set of acupuncture points:
Waiguan, TB5 (Outer Pass)
Yanglingquan, GB34 (Yang Mound Spring)
Kunlun, BL60 (Kunlun Mountains)
Houxi, SI3 (Back Stream)
Hegu, LI4 (Joining Valley)
Neiting, ST44 (Inner Courtyard)
Taichong, LV3 (Great Rushing)
Qiuxu, GB40 (Mound of Ruins)
All needles used in this migraine acupuncture research study were sterile, single-use filiform acupuncture needles. This is consistent with modern standards and protocols.
Migraine Acupuncture Research Conclusions
The researchers concluded, “True acupuncture exhibited persistent, superior, and clinically relevant benefits for migraine prophylaxis, reducing the migraine frequency, number of days with migraine, and pain intensity to a greater degree than sham acupuncture or wait list.” Wait list were the control group that did not receive treatment.
If you suffer from migraines, try acupuncture. We treat chronic migraines all the time at Raleigh Acupuncture with excellent long term results.
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Zhao, Ling, Jiao Chen, Ying Li, Xin Sun, Xiaorong Chang, Hui Zheng, Biao Gong et al. “The long-term effect of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis: a randomized clinical trial.” JAMA Internal Medicine (2017).
Lipton, Richard B., Walter F. Stewart, Seymour Diamond, Merle L. Diamond, and Michael Reed. “Prevalence and burden of migraine in the United States: data from the American Migraine Study II.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 41, no. 7 (2001): 646-657. Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, New York).
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I saw Dr. Jade to treat my migraine headaches. I was a skeptic about acupuncture. But now, I’m a true believer in the treatment. Dr. Jade worked miracles in relieving my migraines!! She’s worth her weight in gold!! Thank you Dr. Jade!
Raleigh Acupuncture was recommended by a friend after I mentioned my insomnia and dependency on a sleeping pill. My apprehension was short lived because of the results of my visits to Dr. Mark. With acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs I was able to begin sleeping well and continue to do so. Dr. Mark is a good listener and encourages his patients in all health issues as well as the original purpose for treatment. Consequently, my knees are stronger and I’m walking better and with more confidence. I haven’t had the need for a cortisone shot in a year and a half. Occasionally, I would use a cane and it’s now somewhere gathering dust. Also, I had a persistent headache that my primary physician had no solution for, and after two acupuncture treatments it’s a thing of the past. Hot flashes were another issue that was treated successfully. I am so grateful to have found a knowledgeable and caring person to treat my ailments, many of which I thought would only grow worse as I aged. Generally, I feel healthier.
I suffered a serious concussion last year riding my mountain bike. After the accident I was getting severe headaches every day. They were so bad I couldn’t drive. I found Raleigh Acupuncture online. I liked their website and they said they treated post-concussion headaches. They got rid of the headaches and helped me with a number of other post-concussion issues like blurred vision, anxiety and insomnia. They really understood what was going on with me. I’m very grateful.
I’ve gotten migraine headaches for the past thirty years. They started as a teenager and have come once or twice a week since then. Pain medication used to work for the first ten or fifteen years, but since then nothing seemed to help. I mentioned to my doctor that I wanted to try Acupuncture and he recommended Raleigh Acupuncture. That was the best decision I’ve ever made. They not only cured my migraines, but got rid of a chronic neck pain at the same time. They gave me Chinese herbs as well, which I took for the eight weeks that I received acupuncture. They were highly professional, easy to talk to, and very informative. They explained everything they were doing and how it was working. Once the headaches stopped, I didn’t have to continue the herbs. It’s been two years and they have not returned. I go back for maintenance once a month. I’ll happily do that forever, not having to deal with migraines any more. I recommend this practice to anyone suffering from migraines.
My 14 year old daughter started getting migraines when her period started last year. They were aweful. A friend of mine suggested we try acupuncture. She went to Raleigh Acupuncture, so we made an appointment. The doctors there were so kind to my daughter. They made her feel safe and comfortable during the treatments. They cured her migraines in just eight treatments! She does not get them anymore. And her periods are so much easier than before. Thank you Raleigh Acupuncture! We are very grateful to you!