Acupuncture for chronic migraine is more effective and causes fewer side effects, than either botox or drugs, report Iranian researchers. A total of 150 patients (48 men & 102 women) were randomly allocated to receive a course of either acupuncture, botox injections or drug therapy (sodium valproate) for three months. Patients in the acupuncture group received 30 treatments in all.
During the study period, pain severity, migraine frequency and need for medication, decreased in all three groups, with the greatest reduction in the acupuncture group. Incidence and severity of side effects was also significantly lower in the acupuncture group compared with the botox group (eyelid droop or ptosis) and the sodium valproate group (weight gain, tremor, sleep disorders, hair loss). The authors conclude that all three therapies are effective but acupuncture may be the preferred method because of higher effectiveness and fewer side effects.
(Acupuncture and botulinum toxin A injection in the treatment of chronic migraine: A randomized controlled study. Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, Summer 2017.)
Researchers in China have shown that acupuncture gives a long-term reduction in migraine frequency, compared with sham or no treatment. A total of 249 participants, aged 18 to 65, who experienced migraine without aura between two and eight times per month, were randomised to acupuncture, sham or waiting list groups. The acupuncture groups had sessions five days per week for four weeks. Patients were followed up for a further 20 weeks after the end of treatment. Treatment was given at outpatient clinics across three locations.
Compared with sham needling, true acupuncture was significantly more effective at reducing migraines at all time points. Sham treatment did not differ significantly from waiting list control. At 16 weeks after the start of the trial, mean monthly migraine frequencies had decreased by 3.2 in the acupuncture group, 2.1 in the sham group and 1.4 in the waiting list group.
(The Long-term Effect of Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, April 2017.)
Preliminary research from the USA suggests that auricular (ear) acupuncture delivered in the emergency department may be useful for the treatment of acute migraine pain in children. In a prospective cohort study, 19 children aged 8 to 18, presenting with acute migraine, were given a single auricular acupuncture treatment to a maximum of three acupoints located along two auricular migraine lines. Fifteen minutes after treatment, all subjects reported improvement or resolution of their migraine, with a clinically and statistically significant mean reduction in pain of 7 points on a 10 point pain scale. There were no known adverse effects.
(Auricular Acupuncture for the Treatment of Pediatric Migraines in the Emergency Department. Pediatric Emergency Care, 2 May 2016.)
The international team of authors of a Cochrane systematic review have concluded that a course of at least six acupuncture treatments can be a valuable option for people with frequent tension headaches. They surveyed 12 trials which included 2349 patients. They drew attention to two large trials which found that acupuncture in addition to medication, resulted in 48% of patients’ headache frequency dropping by more than half; in contrast, just 17% of patients who took medication alone, experienced such an improvement.
When a comparison was made with sham acupuncture, headache frequency halved in 52% of patients receiving true acupuncture, compared with only 43% of patients receiving sham acupuncture. One high quality trial with about 400 participants, showed the benefits of true acupuncture were still present 6 months after treatment.
(Acupuncture for the prevention of tension-type headache. Cochrane Database Systematic Review, 19 April 2016.)
A small study by Italian researchers shows that acupuncture can be used to interrupt an episode of cluster headaches. Four patients were treated either with acupuncture alone, or acupuncture plus the drug verapamil. Acupuncture was given with diminishing frequency for a twelve week period, and according to traditional Chinese medicine principles. All patients experienced an interruption to their cluster headaches.
(Acupuncture in cluster headache: four cases and review of the literature. Neurology Science, 28 May 2014.)