Researchers from a number of American medical universities including Harvard Medical School, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, and more, published a review of clinical research in the recent edition of the journal Neurology and Therapy. They summarized their review with four key findings (Urits et al., 2020):
Acupuncture is gaining increasing attention as a viable addition to the physician's armamentarium for the management of migraine patients.
Evidence is available showing acupuncture’s measurable effects on both the duration and frequency of migraine attacks.
In many studies, acupuncture has been shown to be a safe, efficacious and readily available alternative therapy which may be beneficial to certain migraine patients.
Further investigation is required to ensure that the incorporation of acupuncture into migraine treatment management will have a positive outcome on patients.
Essentially, the cumulative results of study after study shows acupuncture is as, or more effective than conventional pharmaceutical treatments for migraines. The authors conclude that the remaining primary questions in research are to understand the specific mechanisms of acupuncture with respect to migraines and nueroimmunology, and to determine which migraine patients are more likely to respond well to acupuncture, to optimize the application of treatment.
One of the studies reviewed was a retrospective analysis of "21,209 patients with migraine newly diagnosed in 2000–2012" (Urits et al., 2020). Those patients who get acupuncture had less medical expenses within a year of treatment, lower depression risk, lower anxiety risk, and generally concluded, "that acupuncture may financially and therapeutically support migraine patients with common comorbidities such as anxiety and depression".
A 2017 randomized controlled clinical trial comparing acupuncture to botulinum toxin-A and sodium valproate (as a control) in treating chronic migraines, and found all methods reduced pain similarly, but that the acupuncture group "reported the greatest reduction in pain severity at the end of the 3-month study (p = 0.0001)" and had much less side-effects than the botulinum toxin-A group. Their final conclusion was that, "while botulinum toxin-A, acupuncture, and pharmacological methods demonstrate some efficacy in treating chronic migraines, acupuncture demonstrates more effectiveness and is associated with fewer adverse events" (Urits et al., 2020).
All of the evidence, when summarized shows that acupuncture is effective, more safe, and can reduce overall medical costs over time as it shows a more prolonged effect than other treatments. From our understanding of how acupuncture assists the body in self-regulating, it is a gentle, yet effective way of resolving the underlying dis-regulation of neuroinflammation and neurochemistry by stimulating anti-inflammatory pathways and encouraging a more integrated nervous system.
Using this information, along with other research with regards to supplements to reduce frequency of migraines, we help patients find non-drug therapies that reduce and resolve migraines and the underlying patterns that are generating them. For an integrative approach, that is evidence-based, please consider Abundant Heaven's acupuncturists in Downtown Campbell, in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are here for patients in need.
Urits, I., Patel, M., Putz, M. E., Monteferrante, N. R., Nguyen, D., An, D., ... & Viswanath, O. (2020). Acupuncture and Its Role in the Treatment of Migraine Headaches. Neurology and therapy, 1-20.