People who suffer from frequent migraines show significant improvements after 20 weeks of acupuncture, compared with others receiving a carefully-devised sham treatment, say Australian researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne.

The beneficial effects appear to last for at least 3 months after treatment, but not as long as a year, the study shows.

Twenty-six participants receiving real acupuncture had migraines about 3 days a week at the beginning of the study, but this was reduced to just over one day a week after the acupuncture treatment, and the reduction was still maintained 3 months later, principal investigator Dr Zhen Zheng reports.

By comparison, 24 patients receiving sham (fake) acupuncture went from attacks on 3 days a week to attacks on 2.5 days a week.

At the end of the treatment period, nearly three-quarters of those having real acupuncture had a more than 50% reduction in the number of days with migraines, compared with about 30% of those undergoing the sham procedure.

However, there was no difference between the 2 groups when they were followed up after a year.

One acupuncturist, registered with the Chinese Medicine Registration Board of Victoria, performed all the real and sham treatments. Only the acupuncturist knew who was getting the real acupuncture treatment. None of the researchers or patients knew, and a questionnaire revealed that participants could not tell which type of treatment they were getting.

Nine percent of patients having real acupuncture reported mild to moderate adverse events, none of which required medical attention, compared with about 4% of patients having sham treatment.

“Acupuncture can be used as alternative and safe preventive treatment for frequent migraine,” the authors conclude.

They recommend treatment twice a week for 8 weeks.

Last Reviewed: 30/06/2015


Acupuncture for frequent migraine: a randomised, patient/assessor blinded, controlled trail with one- year follow-up