Can acupuncture treat migraines?
Updated: May 19
In more than a decade of practice, I have encountered many people seeking acupuncture treatment for migraines. I see the huge impact that the constant pain and discomfort can have on one’s daily life. Many patients know their triggers (food, stress etc.) and try to avoid these to their best ability. During and also in between episodes, patients often present with considerable muscular tension, including neck and shoulders. At Bowen Hills Acupuncture and Remedial Therapies, we provide a thorough consultation and treatment plan for you, including various treatment options which may include acupuncture, electroacupuncture, remedial massage and cupping to provide pain relief and prevent the headaches from reoccurring. Appointments for our Brisbane clinic can be made online or contact Ken for any enquiries.
How effective is acupuncture for treating migraines?
A review of the scientific literature suggests that acupuncture can treat migraines effectively. The latest Cochrane review (1) of 22 acupuncture trials including 4985 patients and found that an acupuncture course of at least six treatments reduces the frequency of migraines. Acupuncture, therefore, was suggested as a valuable treatment option for people suffering from migraines.
In more detail, in patients who suffered from 6 migraine days per month, the results showed a reduction in migraine days to 3.5 days. In comparison, standard care reduced the migraine to 5 days and sham acupuncture or prophylactic drugs to 4 days. Therefore, the authors concluded that acupuncture is at least similarly effective as the use of prophylactic drugs but does not carry the same side effects which are associated with pharmaceutical interventions.
In 2019, another systematic review (2) further supported Linde et al.’s findings by comparing conventional treatments and acupuncture for their impact on headache frequency with a 3-month follow up period. The authors found that acupuncture was “at least non inferior” to the proven conventional treatment with prophylactic drugs, in reducing the frequency of migraines, at a 3 month follow up.
1) Linde, K., Allais, G., Brinkhaus, B., Fei, Y., Mehring, M., Vertosick, E. A., … White, A. R. (2016). Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://www.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd001218.pub3
2) Trinh, K. V., Diep, D., & Chen, K. J. Q. (2019). Systematic Review of Episodic Migraine Prophylaxis: Efficacy of Conventional Treatments Used in Comparisons with Acupuncture. Medical Acupuncture, 31(2), 85–97. https://www.doi.org/10.1089/acu.2019.1337