Acupuncture may be safe option to reduce migraine headaches, claims study

Beijing, Mar 26 (PTI) Acupuncture may reduce migraine headaches compared to usual care, claims a study that suggests doctors should provide information about the traditional Chinese therapy as an option when discussing preventive treatment strategies with patients.

More than one billion people worldwide are affected by migraine, the researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China, said.

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, they said.

The study, published in The BMJ, set out to compare the effectiveness of manual (real) acupuncture with sham (placebo) acupuncture or usual care.

Their findings are based on 147 patients with average age of 37 and 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 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 at weeks 13 to 20, and migraine attacks at weeks 17 to 20, with an apparent increasing trend, the researchers found.

The adjusted difference between manual and sham acupuncture was 1.4 fewer migraine days at weeks 13 to 16, and 2.1 fewer migraine days and at weeks 17 to 20, they said.

Sham acupuncture resulted in a minor reduction in migraine attacks compared with usual care during weeks 17 to 20, with a slightly decreasing trend over this period.

No severe adverse events were reported, according to the researchers.

They point to some limitations, such as the relatively short (20 week) study period. Strengths include use of a non-penetrating needle for sham acupuncture, and successful blinding to increase the reliability of the results.

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 researchers said.

They said 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.' PTI SAR SAR