Acupuncture for migraines

Approximately 28 million Americans (one in 10) suffer with migraine headaches.

by Don Matesz — 

If you get migraines, you are not alone. Approximately 28 million Americans (one in 10) suffer with you. Migraine sufferers rarely get lasting relief from medications. Fortunately, research published in the March 2008 issue of the journal Headache indicates that properly applied acupuncture can significantly reduce migraine disability and medication use.

The researchers split 160 patients into four groups, each of which received one of the following therapy combinations: real acupuncture plus migraine medication; one of two different mock acupuncture treatments plus medication; or medication alone.

Acupuncturists evaluated each individual in the real acupuncture group to determine the specific cause of the headaches (e.g., stagnation of qi and blood, or excess of liver yang), which according to Chinese medicine may vary from case to case. The other three groups only received a conventional medical diagnosis.

Acupuncturists treated each patient in the true acupuncture group with an acupoint prescription determined by the individual’s specific Chinese medical evaluation, whereas everyone in the mock acupuncture groups received a standardized treatment. The true acupuncture group received two treatments weekly over about 12 weeks, for a total of 20 treatments.

Researchers evaluated the response to treatment at 12 and 24 weeks. At each checkpoint, only the true acupuncture group reported improvement, both in terms of less disability and reduced medication use. They probably could have gotten even better results by incorporating herbal medicines and dietary changes.

If you want to try acupuncture, keep in mind that in most cases it only works well if you get at least two treatment sessions per week, and at least 20 total treatments. Acupuncture definitely works — but only if you get it done often and for long enough.

When choosing an acupuncturist, consider the treatment fee.  Can you afford twice-weekly sessions for at least 20 treatments?  If so, acupuncture is an excellent natural option for migraine relief.


Don Matesz, M.S., L.Ac., operates Barefoot Acupuncture Clinic, devoted to providing affordable acupuncture, nutrition guidance and natural health care services. 602-954-8016.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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