A systematic Cochrane review supports acupuncture for migraine
A systematic review of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis, conducted by Cochrane in 2016, included 4,985 participants in 25 randomised controlled trials, firmly placing it among the most well studied treatments.
The review found that adding acupuncture to symptomatic treatment of attacks reduces the frequency of headaches. Contrary to previous findings, the updated evidence also suggested that there is an effect over sham, but this effect is small. Sham is simply a diluted form of acupuncture, not a placebo, so the difference would not be expected to be large.
It also showed that the available trials also suggested that acupuncture may be at least similarly effective as treatment with prophylactic drugs.
Acupuncture can be considered an option for patients willing to undergo this treatment, the review concluded.
NICE recommends acupuncture for migraine
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that patients are offered a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture as a treatment to prevent migraine if neither topiramate nor propranolol work well.
Acupuncture is considered a very safe treatment
Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments.
One survey was of traditional acupuncturists and the other of doctors and physiotherapists who practise acupuncture. A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded.
A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures.
There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.