Acupuncture is probably best known for the treatment of pain. Although acupuncture is highly regarded for relief from aching backs and knees, the positive effects of acupuncture for headaches and migraines is sometimes overlooked. While acupuncture can help to relieve a migraine when it occurs, acupuncture has been shown to help long-term to prevent migraines from returning as frequently. A study published in 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that true acupuncture, when performed by an experienced acupuncturist, is associated with reduced frequency of chronic migraines. 1
A Cochrane systematic review in 2016 that included 12 trials and 2349 adults looked at the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of tension type headaches. Two large trials showed that acupuncture in addition to routine care when compared to routine care alone could result in a 50% decrease in headache frequency in a majority of participants. The largest trial included showed that true acupuncture reduced headaches for up to 6 months. 2
I began my acupuncture career in a chiropractic clinic. As you may know, chiropractors also treat a lot of headaches and migraines and I also saw many patients for these concerns. Headaches and migraines have remained a large part of my practice to this day. Many patients who suffered with tension headaches and migraines that continued despite other therapies received both reduced frequency and severity of their headaches. However, the most impressive result that I have seen in my clinic is the reduction of frequency and prevention of migraines, a result that is a shared finding with the above research.
Zhao, L, Chen, J, Li, Y, et al. JAMA Internal Med. 2017; 177 (4): 508-15.
Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Shin BC, Vickers A, White AR. Acupuncture for the prevention of tension-type headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD007587. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007587.pub2.