In a new study, researchers found that acupuncture can reduce migraine headaches compared to both no acupuncture and usual care.
They say doctors should provide information about acupuncture as an option when discussing preventive treatment strategies with patients.
The research was conducted by a team based in China.
More than one billion people worldwide are affected by migraines. It has a considerable impact on the quality of life and imposes a substantial burden on society.
For people with frequent migraines, preventive treatments to reduce headache frequency are available, but not all patients respond well to drug therapy and many prefer to avoid it.
Evidence for the benefit of acupuncture on migraine prevention has been mixed.
In the study, the team compared the effectiveness of manual (real) acupuncture with sham (placebo) acupuncture or usual care.
Their findings are based on 147 patients (average age 37) with a history of migraine without aura who were recruited from seven hospitals in China from June 2016 to November 2018.
None of the patients had received acupuncture before, and all were instructed not to take any painkillers or start any other treatments during the trial.
After four weeks of baseline assessment, patients received either 20 sessions of manual acupuncture at true acupuncture points, 20 sessions of non-penetrating sham acupuncture at non-acupuncture points, or usual care (including advice on lifestyle and self-management) over eight weeks.
The team found compared with sham acupuncture, manual acupuncture resulted in a greater reduction in migraine days at weeks 13 to 20 and migraine attacks at weeks 17 to 20, with an apparent increasing trend.
No severe adverse events were reported.
These results show that treatment with manual acupuncture resulted in a higher reduction in the frequency of migraine days and migraine attacks.
The team calls for longer-term studies to assess how long the effects of acupuncture would last.
The study is published in The BMJ.
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