Acupuncture in the treatment of migraines.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Migraine
Professional Data: Migraine


A migraine headache can be debilitating for hours and sometimes for days. The migraine headache is considered a vascular headache, although the precise mechanism and cause remain unknown. There are several known triggers, some of which include food allergies, blood sugar disturbances, stress load, mechanical injury, and hormonal fluctuations. Treating a migraine means working with these triggers.

Migraine may be classified as migraine without aura, formerly called common migraine, or migraine with aura, formerly known as classic migraine. The differences are based upon the presence or absence of neurologic symptoms prior to the onset of headache. The aura may consist of flashing lights, or zigzag lines, or may manifest as blind spots in the vision. Some people even experience speech difficulty, tingling in the face or hands, confusion, or weakness of an arm or leg. Auras are experienced by approximately 10 percent of those who have migraines.1 The common migraine, or migraine without aura, occurs in approximately 85 percent of those affected.

Recently published in the journal Headache, a randomized controlled 6-month study investigated the effects of acupuncture on migraines without aura versus treatment with flunarizine. Flunarizine is a prescription drug used to help relax blood vessels and is used to prevent migraines. Eighty women were randomized to the flunarizine group, which received 10 mg for the first 2 months and then 20 days per month for the next month. Another 80 women were assigned to the acupuncture group. Acupuncture was performed weekly for the first two months and once a month for the remaining 4 months. Both groups reported a decrease in migraine attacks. After 2 and 4 months of treatment, the frequency of attacks was less in the acupuncture group than in the flunarizine group. In addition, pain relievers were consumed less in the acupuncture group and side effects were less in this group as well. The authors concluded that, “acupuncture treatment exhibited greater effectiveness in the first months of therapy and superior tolerability.”2


1. Silberstein SD, Lipton RB. Overview of diagnosis and treatment of migraine. Neurology. 1994;44(suppl 7):S6-S16.
2. Allais G, et al. Acupuncture in the Prophylactic Treatment of Migraine Without Aura: A Comparison with Flunarizine. Headache. Nov 2002;42(9):855.