An audit of almost 6000 patients who attended a pain clinic in Spain over a nine year period, including those treated with acupuncture for headache pain, revealed an average success rate of 79.7%. For the audit, “success” was defined as an improvement of at least 50% in five factors: pain intensity, pain frequency, consumption of painkillers, level of incapacity, and sleep disturbance.
The highest success rate (93%) was achieved in patients with headaches. The authors conclude acupuncture is effective, carries with it no severe adverse events, and considerably reduces the consumption of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.
(Effectiveness of acupuncture and related techniques in treating non-oncological pain in primary healthcare-an audit. Acupuncture in Medicine, June 2007.)
A randomised controlled trial looking at acupuncture for migraine prevention enrolled 114 patients to compare acupuncture with metoprolol (a beta-blocker). Treatment was given over twelve weeks, and 8 to 15 acupuncture treatments were delivered per patient. Both groups experienced a similar fall in the number of days with migraine, but there were fewer side effects with acupuncture.
The researchers concluded that acupuncture might be an effective and safe treatment option for patients unwilling or unable to take medication.
(Effectiveness and Tolerability of Acupuncture Compared with Metoprolol in Migraine Prophylaxis. Headache Journal, 2 October 2006.)
A one year randomised controlled trial was conducted, comparing acupuncture with no acupuncture for chronic headaches. A total of 401 patients aged 18-64 experiencing chronic headaches, predominantly migraine, were enrolled. Patients were drawn from GP practices and randomly allocated to receive up to twelve acupuncture treatments over three months.
Those in the acupuncture group reported 22 fewer days with headache in the year and used 15% less medication. They also made 25% fewer visits to their GP, and had 15% fewer days off sick than their counterparts given the usual care. The researchers concluded that acupuncture leads to lasting benefits for patients with chronic headache, particularly migraine, and that an expansion of NHS acupuncture services should be considered.
(Acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care: large, pragmatic, randomised trial. British Medical Journal, 25 March 2004.)
A randomised controlled trial in Italy involving 160 women and studying acupuncture for migraine prevention, compared acupuncture treatment with flunarizine over a six month period. Both groups experienced a reduction in the frequency of attacks and drugs used for relief of the symptoms, but the number of attacks at the two and four month points, was lower in the acupuncture group. This was also the only group to show a significant reduction in pain intensity, and significantly lower treatment side effects.
The researchers concluded that acupuncture could be used to prevent migraine attacks, and it was more effective and better tolerated than flunarizine in the first months of treatment.
(Acupuncture in the Prophylactic Treatment of Migraine without Aura: A Comparison with Flunarizine. Headache Journal, 25 October 2002.)