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Acupuncture Proven to Reduce Migraine Symptoms

Acupuncture research in Denmark and Germany shows promise for the use of acupuncture to relieve migraine headache pain. In the article, doctors state ‘In contrast to drugs, acupuncture treatment seems to be very effective in preventing the attacks from ever occurring or rendering them much less severe when they do hit.’ Interestingly acupuncture was proven effective even though it was not administered according to traditional acupuncture treatment standards. Scientific research calls for ‘standardized’ treatment which entails using the exact same treatment on each person regardless of the individual’s symptoms or constitution. Anyone familiar with acupuncture knows that treatment is individualized with no two people receiving the exact same treatment. Acupuncture research is difficult to conduct for this reason but continues to show promise in many research studies.

Acupuncture Proven to Reduce Migraine Symptoms

Acupuncture research in Denmark
Researchers in Denmark recently demonstrated that acupuncture offers significant benefits for migraine sufferers. The researchers monitored 85 patients with a history of migraine in a randomised, double-blind study in which acupuncture treatment (dry needling to acupoints in the neck) was compared to the drug metoprolol in the prevention of migraine attacks. All of the patients, investigators and statisticians were blinded as to treatment, and the therapist was blinded as to results.

The study took place at an outpatient pain clinic in the northern Copenhagen area and the patients who participated in the study were either referred by their general practitioners or had responded to newspaper advertisements. Certain patients were excluded from the study; those who were pregnant or had previous experience with acupuncture or beta-blocking agents, those with chronic pain syndromes, and those with known contraindications to treatment with beta blockers. The patients were then allocated to one of two groups: the first group were given a 17-week regimen with acupuncture and placebo tablets and the second group were given placebo acupuncture stimulation and 100 mg of metoprolol daily.

The results revealed that both groups exhibited significant reduction in frequency of migraine attacks and there was no difference found between the two groups of patients in the average frequency or duration of migraine attacks. However the severity of the attacks was found to be lower in the metoprolol group but this was also accompanied by a range of adverse side effects. The researchers therefore concluded that acupuncture offers ” a valuable supplement to the list of migraine prophylactic tools” being equipotent to metoprolol in the influence on frequency and duration (but not severity) of attacks, and superior in terms of negative side-effects.

There is no doubt that this study provides additional weight to the argument that acupuncture should be more fully integrated into western medicine, at the very least as a complementary tool for pain control. However it should be noted that the study, like many others, attempts to define acupuncture treatment in western medical terms, with standardised treatment being administered to every patient in the treatment group without consideration to the specific needs of the individual patient or the more complex systems and meridians (flows of energy) upon which oriental medicine is based. It would be more helpful and certainly increase our understanding of the true benefits of acupuncture treatment if researchers would give thought to the oriental approach to medicine when devising research studies and allow qualified acupuncturists the opportunity to treat each indivdual according to their diagnoses. As in all other forms of holistic therapies, treatment cannot be standardised for every patient because the cause of the problem may differ in each individual case.

Acupuncture research in Germany
Acupuncture is becoming an increasingly popular form of treatment for migraine sufferers. In 1994 Danish researchers demonstrated that acupuncture was as effective in the treatment of migraine as the drug metoprolol (1) and concluded that the treatment offers ‘a valuable supplement to the list of migraine prophylactic tools’. However, more recently, German researchers continued in this line of study by investigating the effects of acupuncture in preventing migraine attacks(2).

In the German study, patients with a history of migraine attacks were randomly selected to one of two groups ; one group received treatment involving a traditional deep needle insertion on acupuncture points, the other group were used as controls and given a placebo treatment using superficial needle insertion on non-acupuncture points. All of the patients kept a diary of headaches and migraine attacks before, during and after treatment for a period of one year.

The results revealed that there was a statistically significant therapeutic effect and marked decrease in migraine attacks observed in the patients in the acupuncture treatment group which was not observed in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that their results indicated that acupuncture ‘is a useful interval therapeutical agent for migraine sufferers’ and called for further studies to be carried out to try and identify and understand the exact mechanism or trigger that is responsible for the treatment.

Hesse J; Mogelvang B; Simonsen H. Acupuncture versus metoprolol in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized trial of trigger point inactivation. Pain Clinic and Medical Department, Skodsborg Sanatorium, Denmark. Journal of International Medicine (ENGLAND) May 1994, 235 (5) p451-6
(1) See ALTERNATIVES in health™ Vol 1, No,2, 5.
(2)Weinschutz T.K.; Niederberger U.. Relevance of acupuncture in migraine therapy (Zum Stellenwert der Akupunctur in der Migranetheerapie) Klinik fur Neurologie, Christian-Albrechts-Universitat, Niemannsweg 147, D-24105 Kiel Germany Nervenheilkunde (Germany) , 1995, 14/5 A (295-301)


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