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Acupuncture shows promise in migraine treatment, study says

February 21, 2017   / CNN


When most people get a headache, a simple over-the-counter pain reliever and a few moments of quiet can usually do the trick. But for millions of Americans suffering from debilitating migraines, the pain can be so intense that relief may seem out of reach.

Faced with a growing demand for solutions, researchers, drug companies and medical providers have sought out new treatment options. A widening class of medications, devices and alternative therapies is presenting those who suffer from moderate to severe migraines with various options to explore.
A study published Monday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine said acupuncture may be helpful in reducing the frequency of migraines and preventing attacks.
Researchers in China found that properly administered acupuncture therapy may reduce the frequency of the most common types of migraines. The research, which builds on a body of knowledge from smaller studies, looked at how true acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture in reducing migraine attacks and symptoms in those who have been battling the condition for at least a year.
All treatments were administered by trained and licensed acupuncturists who trained for at least five years and had four or more years of clinical experience. Recipients of ‘true acupuncture’ were treated in four acupoints chosen by clinical experts. The four points used for the ‘sham’ group were chosen to avoid migraine relief.
Twenty weeks after receiving treatment at five times a week, patients in the true acupuncture group saw a reduction in the average number of migraines from 4.8 per month to 3 per month, with no adverse events reported requiring “special medical intervention.”
Magnolia Ng, a licensed acupuncturist and pain management specialist in San Francisco who was not involved in the JAMA study, studied both the Eastern and Western traditions. She says she is not surprised by the study results and has seen some similar benefits in her practice.
“At a cellular level, (acupuncture) changes the muscle cells as well as the fascia at the acupuncture point to influence the expression of pain in our body,” she said. “It also stimulates the body’s ability to recover from any illnesses and heal itself.”
Typically, Ng hears from patients who have exhausted their medication options. She says it is common for people to come to her before trying medications that may have risks involved.