Science confirms acupuncture prevents migraines

A review of scientific literature to prevent migraines showed acupuncture works slightly better than drugs and is not just a placebo.

The Cochrane review process is the most rigorous scientific examination of clinical research.  In a 2016 Cochrane Review the authors summarized twenty-two clinical acupuncture trials regarding the treatment of migraines, including 4985 participants in total.

Some trials tested acupuncture alone compared to routine care, others tested “fake” or “sham” acupuncture, and some compared acupuncture to the use of drugs taken to prevent migraines. Fake or sham acupuncture treatment in research is usually a non-penetrative procedure done to fool the test subject, or can be acupuncture needles inserted into areas on the body assumed to not have a therapeutic effect.  This is controversial, since we don’t fully understand the mechanism of acupuncture, therefore we don’t fully understand how to make a good “fake” acupuncture system to measure placebo effect and not get some active therapeutic effect too.

The quality of these acupuncture trials for migraines from the Cochrane reviews (the gold standard research system for reviewing the effectiveness of medical treatments) was deemed “moderate”, an improvement compared to the last Cochrane summary on this subject.  A moderate level in quality of research is expensive and hard to achieve; indeed, it is impressive when you consider it is not the large pharmaceutical companies doing all these trials that were reviewed,  It was smaller government funded bodies like NGOs and universities that want to know if and how acupuncture works.  No patents or direct profit can come from the outcomes of this research to any corporation!  This is research for the people by the people.

The findings of the Cochrane review were moderately significant, which is quite good for a Cochrane review!  To give a comparison, the Cochrane review system has determined that SSRI antidepressants are no more clinically significant than a placebo, ad This is enough to make positive conclusions that acupuncture is a legitimate and recommended procedure for treating and preventing migraines. Here were the main findings….

1. Adding acupuncture is a valid procedure to include in a symptomatic treatment plan to reduce the frequency of migraines

2. Acupuncture treatments are at least as effective as  drugs used to prevent migraines, but without the significant side-effects of these drugs.

With drugs we can and do measure placebo with “sugar pill” equivalents. Since we cannot measure placebo accurately with acupuncture, this particular finding that acupuncture can be as good or better than the best drugs is so very important. Obviously, acupuncture is more than placebo for the treatment of migraines, and I suspect this will apply to many other chronic pain issues as the quality of research improves. As exemplified by the opioid crisis, the pharmaceutical/medical system is struggling to understand and treat chronic pain; we can use some more research on other modalities like acupuncture which are both effective and non-addictive.

3. Contrary to the last Cochrane review on this issue which represented research of less quality protocols, we now find a significant positive effect beyond the “fake” acupuncture treatments considered to measure placebo.

In the future, once we know more about acupuncture mechanism and how to properly measure acupuncture placebo, I predict the placebo will be come less because we will discover we are actually measuring some active effects in a some of these so called “fake” procedures.  The gap between acupuncture’s active effects and placebo effects will get larger and will translate to a greater therapeutic significance and justification for using acupuncture.

Gord Grant has extensive experience and success in treatment people for migraines, often helping them become symptom free over time. Acupuncture treatments for migraines and headaches involve a number of different approaches that are used and adapted based on each client’s unique presentation of symptoms.

What makes Gord and the The Acupuncture Turning Point more effective than many, and what inspires us to work with our clients, is that we focus on understanding and addressing each person’s overall health — we don’t just stick the needles in to get the therapeutic effect found in the Cochrane reviews.At the Acupuncture Turning Point we foster and guide each person to discover how they need to change and adapt their life style to meet their health goals.  We encourage our clients to find out what works best for them to have long term relief and vitality. As each person feels more like himself or herself again, this then becomes a positive self fulfilling cycle; indeed, it is the Turning Point!.

Gord Grant, PhD, RAc

Book a session online now with Gord to help make your Turning Point for migraines or other chronic pain issues that you struggle with.

Read Gord’s last blog about migraines, “The headache of understanding and treating migraines”.

Read how Gord has helped people with migraines

I suffered from migraines and back pain for as long as I can remember, since I’ve being going for acupuncture they have completely disappeared! I’m amazed. I highly recommend Gord – he is very friendly and personable and takes his time to understand what your individual needs are. The clinic is very warm and welcoming as well definitely a 5-star experience.  Candice Mitchell  May 2019

I had my 3rd appointment done with Gord. Originally went in for my chronic headaches and sore neck and shoulder. Gord is simply awesome. Full of knowledge and professional. I can feel a difference with my chronic pain after 3 appointments. However, I am aware, that this will take many more appointments. But so far so good. I found that the acupuncture and the tape helped the most! So, I will definitely continue getting that done. -Lisa Mar 2019

I have a lot of back and neck pain, as well as migraines. I received treatment of acupuncture, cupping and IMS. After just one treatment, I feel significant release of pain and tension. Will be returning to this clinic, vs going to chiro and massage, as this treatment was much more effective and longer lasting. -J.U. Feb 2018

I was getting migraines when I came to see Gord – the halo, the dizziness… he worked on my neck and back; immediately after I didn’t have migraines any more!; as a dental hygienist hunching over all day, he taught me how to do micro-adjustments of my back throughout the day, and now I don’t have migraines! At first I saw him every week, but now I just come in every 3 or 4 weeks when my upper back and neck get tense.” Haley Conrad. August, 2019

Gord is my miracle worker, working on my emotions and my spine. He has an intuition that he listens to. I walk into their office and I can give myself over to their care. I have more energy when I leave because Gord has done his best work. My migraines are taken care of in one visit. My spine is unfixable but I get such relaxation and I have a huge trust in Gord. Where the other doctor visits feel too clinical, Gord’s care resounds the instant you walk in the door. This is the place for caring. -Debra Murphy Mar 2019