Migraines can be incredibly debilitating, with severe symptoms ranging from intense pain to nausea. But although the neurological disease is fairly common — affecting 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the U.S. — effective treatments can be hard to find, especially since prescription medications can be quite costly. However, a new study suggests that migraine sufferers may want to turn to acupuncture, as the treatment has been found to potentially reduce a person’s migraine frequency and prevent attacks from occurring.
Published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, a group of Chinese scientists found that acupuncture “significantly reduced” the frequency of attacks for those suffering from migraines without auras. The researchers recruited 249 patients (189 of whom were women), between the ages of 18 and 65, who suffer from migraines without auras two to eight times per month. During the 24-week clinical trial, the participants were divided into three groups: one that received true acupuncture, another receiving “sham” acupuncture, and a third was put in a wait-list for migraine treatment.
Those receiving true acupuncture and sham acupuncture underwent treatment five days per week for four weeks. Patients who underwent true acupuncture saw their migraine frequency decrease from 4.8 per month to three, CNN notes. Furthermore, the true acupuncture group saw a reduction in days with migraine — 3.2 days less — while those with sham acupuncture only had 2.1 fewer days with migraines. The acupuncture group also saw the severity of its migraines decrease, as well.
Yet, as with most studies, the findings had limitations. For instance, there’s a chance the participants receiving true acupuncture could have had a placebo effect from the sensation of “numbness, soreness and distention,” Dr. Amy Gelfand, assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in a commentary that accompanied the study. Additionally, Gelfand added that if acupuncture truly is effective for migraine prevention, it may be difficult for patients to find and afford practitioners capable of performing migraine-focused acupuncture.