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Acupuncture for Migraines: A Review of Empirical Evidence

Many individuals explore acupuncture as a potential remedy for migraines, often curious about the scientific evidence supporting its efficacy. This article presents a brief analysis of two significant systematic reviews conducted in 2016 and 2020 that consolidate and critically examine the existing evidence on this subject.

Acupuncture as a Preventative Measure for Episodic Migraine

Cochrane, a reputable non-profit organization that sets benchmarks for medical evidence reviews and resultant recommendations, performed a systematic review in 2016 to evaluate the role of acupuncture in treating migraines. They concluded that the evidence suggests adding acupuncture to symptomatic migraine treatment can reduce the frequency of headaches.

When juxtaposed with the absence of acupuncture, research revealed that, on average, acupuncture helped reduce the migraine frequency by half or more for 41% of subjects, compared to only 17% without treatment. In studies where acupuncture was compared to standard prophylactic drug treatments, the frequency of migraines was reduced by half or more for 57% of the acupuncture recipients versus 46% after three months. After six months, these numbers were 59% for acupuncture recipients versus 54% for those on medication. The participants in the acupuncture groups also reported fewer side effects, leading to a higher likelihood of continuing the treatment than those on medication.

Acupuncture's Therapeutic Effect on Migraines: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

A more recent systematic review from 2020 highlighted the therapeutic impact of acupuncture on migraines. The evidence demonstrated that acupuncture significantly decreased headache intensity and frequency while presenting fewer adverse reactions than placebo sham acupuncture.

When compared to medication, the acupuncture groups also witnessed greater reductions in headache frequency and experienced fewer side effects. The study also noted beneficial changes in brain blood flow as a response to acupuncture treatment, providing a theoretical foundation for understanding its mechanism.

Despite the promising findings of these reviews, it's vital to emphasize that acupuncture's effectiveness can vary based on individual circumstances. Our approach to acupuncture for migraines considers various factors such as stress, posture, sleep quality, digestion, and movement. We aim to provide comprehensive treatment that addresses you as a whole person rather than merely focusing on your symptoms.


In conclusion, acupuncture holds significant potential as an effective treatment for migraines. The research findings from systematic reviews suggest that it reduces the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches and leads to fewer side effects compared to conventional medication. Notably, acupuncture induces beneficial changes in brain blood flow, which could explain its therapeutic effects.

However, it is important to underscore that the effectiveness of acupuncture may vary from individual to individual. Hence, at Loren Stiteler Acupuncture & Herbs, we advocate for a holistic approach that considers a range of factors, such as stress levels, sleep quality, and overall lifestyle.

By doing so, we aim to deliver personalized care that transcends mere symptom management, treating our patients as unique individuals with specific needs and health conditions.

The empirical evidence presents a compelling case for considering acupuncture as a viable option for managing migraines, ultimately contributing to the field of comprehensive, patient-centered healthcare.

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