Summary of Clinical Trial and Systematic Review of Acupuncture and Migraines

Acupuncture is a complementary medicine often used for treatment of migraine headaches. The following will summarize two research papers, a systematic review and a randomized control trial, and review how this research can be used in clinical practice.

Acupuncture and Migraine Research: REVIEW #1

Acupuncture For Prevention of Episodic Migraine: Systematic Review

This research aims to gain insight into whether acupuncture is more effective than prophylactic treatment with drugs, more effective than sham acupuncture and if it is more effective then no treatment.

Number of Studies Found

An extensive literature review of twenty-seven studies and 4985 participants was conducted to determine if use of acupuncture reduced participants migraine frequency, the primary outcome was migraine frequency after treatment and at follow up.

Number of Studies Included

Five studies were not included in this review due to inclusion of participant who had had a migraine for less than twelve months. Twenty-two studies were included.


Results from this review were positive for the use of acupuncture for migraines.  The evidence suggests adding acupuncture during headaches is effective. This review updates previous results by adding the use of acupuncture was statistically significant over the use of sham or placebo. The review also concludes the use of acupuncture may be as effective as treatment with prophylactic drugs.

acupunctureClinical Application

Reviewing the above systemic review with local neurologists would be recommended for clinical application.  Based on the systemic review, the use of acupuncture for migraines is evidence based medicine. For the best integrative care of migraine patients, neurologist should consider referrals to local acupuncturists.

Acupuncture and Migraine Research: REVIEW #2

The Long-term Effect of Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis: A Randomized Clinical Trial

This randomized clinical trial took place from 2012-2014 in order to understand if true acupuncture, provided five days per week over 4 weeks, versus sham acupuncture, provided at the same frequency would cause a greater reduction in migraine frequency.

Population Studied

Criterial from the International Headache Society was used to determine a population studied that included 18 to 65 years old male and females who reported experiencing migraine headaches without aura at a frequency of 2 to 8 times per month,

Number of Subjects

A total of 249 participants were included.

Intervention and Type of Control

A control group was established with participants that were told they were on a waitlist to receive 20 acupuncture sessions free of charge after the conclusion of the trial. Participants in the true and sham acupuncture group both received 20 sessions of acupuncture at a frequency of one treatment five days per week for four weeks. Participants were followed up for 20 weeks post acupuncture sessions.


The outcomes measured were the frequency of migraines reported via the participants self-recording in diaries. Statistically significant differences in the acupuncture group’s frequency of migraines versus both the sham acupuncture and the control group allowed the researches to determine that acupuncture may result in long term reduction in migraine without aura frequency.


Watch a 1 Minute Video About Acupuncture and Headaches

Clinical Application

Clinical use of the above research may be to increase the frequency of acupuncture for migraines care for episodic migraine headaches.  Many Chinese medicine practitioners in the U.S. may treat these cases once or twice per week.  Increasing frequency of care can be recommended based on the results of the randomized clinical trial.


Linde K., & Allais G., & Brinkhaus B., & Fei Y., &Mehring M., &Vertosick EA., & Vickers NA., & White AR. (2016). Acupuncture For The Prevention of Episodic Migraine. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Jun 28 (6). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub3

Zhao L., & Chen J., & Li Y., & Sun X., & Chang X., & Zheng H., & Gong B., & Huang Y., & Yang M., & Wu X., & Li X., & Liang F. (2017). The Long-term Effect of Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med, Apr 1;177(4), 508-515. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9378

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