Acupuncture is widely used for preventing migraine attacks although its effectiveness has not yet been fully established. Klaus Linde, M.D., of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, Technische Universität Munich, Germany, and colleagues investigated whether acupuncture reduced headache frequency more effectively than sham acupuncture or no acupuncture in patients with migraines.
The study consisted of a three-group, randomised, controlled trial involving 302 patients, with migraine headaches, based on International Headache Society criteria. Patients were randomised to either acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or waiting list control.
Acupuncture and sham acupuncture were administered by specialised physicians and consisted of twelve sessions per patient over eight weeks. The sham treatment consisted of needles placed at non-acupuncture points. Patients completed headache diaries from four weeks before to twelve weeks after randomisation and from week 21 to 24 after randomisation.
The researchers found that between baseline and weeks 9 to 12, the average number of days with headache of moderate or severe intensity decreased by 2.2 days from a baseline of 5.2 days in the acupuncture group compared with a decrease to 2.2 days from a baseline of 5.0 days in the sham acupuncture group, and by 0.8 days from a baseline of 5.4 days in the waiting list group.
No difference was detected between the acupuncture and the sham acupuncture groups. The proportion of responders was 51 percent in the acupuncture group, 53 percent in the sham acupuncture group, and 15 percent in the waiting list group.
"In conclusion, in our trial, acupuncture was associated with a reduction of migraine headaches compared with no treatment; however, the effects were similar to those observed with sham acupuncture and may be due to nonspecific physiological effects of needling, to a powerful placebo effect, or to a combination of both," the authors write.
MEDICA.de; Source: JAMA and Archives Journals