Acupuncture Eases Migraine Headache Pain
Acupuncture May Be Cost-Effective Option for Treating Chronic Headache
WebMD News Archive
March 15, 2004 -- Acupuncture may provide lasting relief from
the pain of chronic headaches, such as migraines, according to a new study.
Researchers found that compared with standard medical care,
acupuncture offers substantial benefits in preventing headaches and improving
the quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, especially
Acupuncture is commonly used to treat other types of chronic
pain, but researchers say this is the first large-scale study to examine the
effectiveness of acupuncture under real-life conditions. They say the results
indicate that health insurance coverage of acupuncture services should be
expanded to include the treatment of chronic headaches and migraine.
Pins and Needles Ease Migraine Pain
In the study, published in the March 15 issue of the British
Medical Journal, researchers randomly divided 401 adults aged 18-65 years
old with chronic headache (at least two headaches a month) -- into two
treatment groups. Participants had a history of having mostly migraine
One group received up to 12 acupuncture sessions during a
three-month period in addition to standard medical care, and the other group
received standard care alone.
A year later, researchers found those who received
- Experienced 22 fewer days with headaches
- Used 15% less medication
- Made 25% fewer visits to their doctor
- Took 15% fewer days off sick from work than the control group
Researchers say one limitation of their study is that the
control group did not receive a sham acupuncture intervention. Therefore, some
of the benefits found among the acupuncture group may have not been caused by
the actual treatment but because of the "placebo effect," which is
based on the patient's expectations of benefit from treatment rather than the
effectiveness of the treatment itself.
But researchers say previous placebo-controlled studies have
already shown that acupuncture is superior to placebo in treating migraine.
In a related study published in the same journal, British
researchers found that acupuncture improves the quality of life for people with
chronic headaches at a small additional cost. They say the findings show that
acupuncture is a relatively cost-effective headache therapy compared with other
treatments covered by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.