Acupuncture can reduce migraine headaches, say researchers, adding that doctors should provide information about acupuncture as an option when discussing preventive treatment strategies with patients.
"Acupuncture can be recommended as a prophylactic treatment and clinicians should provide patients with information about acupuncture as an option when discussing prophylactic treatment strategies," said researchers from China.
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, according to the study.
For the findings, published in the journal The BMJ, researchers set out to compare 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 were randomly allocated to receive 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.
Over the next 12 weeks, the researchers compared changes in migraine days and migraine attacks per four-week period from baseline.
Compared with sham acupuncture, manual acupuncture resulted in a greater reduction in migraine days and migraine attacks. Sham acupuncture resulted in a minor reduction in migraine attacks compared with usual care.
According to the researchers, no severe adverse events were reported.
"These results show that treatment with manual acupuncture compared to sham acupuncture or usual care, resulted in a significantly higher reduction in the frequency of migraine days and migraine attacks," the study authors said.