Can Acupuncture Help With Migraines?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical practices in the world, according to Oxford Medicine. While healthcare professionals have mixed opinions on the effectiveness of acupuncture, some studies show that it can be a helpful and natural way of treating various ailments.

If you've never heard of the practice, acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is believed to work by stimulating the central nervous system (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). By inserting fine needles into the skin's surface, the body releases chemicals into the muscles, brain, and spinal cord to encourage physical and mental well-being. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the acupuncture points in the body are connected by pathways through which energy, or Qi, travels. It's believed that when this energy flow is disrupted or imbalanced, it can cause disease. Acupuncture helps by improving the flow of energy throughout the body. But what exactly can it do for migraine sufferers?

Acupuncture vs. other migraine treatments

In 2017, the Acupuncture Evidence Project analyzed acupuncture's effectiveness across 14 clinical areas and 122 treatments. They found that the traditional practice has a more substantial effect on certain conditions like allergies, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, postoperative pain, headaches, and migraine prevention. 

2016 review published in the Cochrane Library underwent six trials in which acupuncture was compared to preventative treatment strategies for migraines. After three to four months, study subjects who underwent acupuncture had fewer headaches. Other study outcomes showed a reduced rate of adverse effects by using acupuncture versus prophylactic (preventative) drug treatments. According to the authors of the study, "There is consistent evidence that acupuncture provides additional benefit to treatment of acute migraine attacks only or to routine care." The study experts further suggest, "Acupuncture should be considered a treatment option for patients willing to undergo this treatment."

If you suffer from migraines and can find a reputable, licensed acupuncturist in your area, it may be a low-risk way of effectively treating them.