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Acupuncture recommended for migraine and headache

By Nigel Praities

GPs should tackle migraines or chronic tension headaches by recommending a course of acupuncture to their patients, say two gold-standard reviews published today.

The authors of the Cochrane Foundation reviews said there was ‘consistent evidence' to show acupuncture provided additonal benefit to routine care for patients with migraines and also recommended it as an option for patients with frequent bouts of tension-type headaches.

Two large studies included in the analysis showed 47% of patients receiving acupuncture reported the number of headache days they suffered were reduced by half or more, compared with 16% of patients in the control group who were taking painkillers.

The international group of authors concluded there was insufficient evidence to recommend acupuncture last year, but said recent high quality trials had changed their minds in a major boost to the complementary therapy.

‘Available studies suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as, or possibly more effective than, prophylactic drug treatment, and has fewer adverse effects. Acupuncture should be considered a treatment option for patients willing to undergo this treatment,' says the review of the evidence in migraine.

Dr Adrian White, one of the authors of the review and clinical research fellow at Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, said recent large clinical trials had really added to the evidence base supporting acupuncture.

‘There isn't a lot else to offer these type of patients and the evidence is quite convincing. There was over 4,000 patients in one of the studies and it is really up there compared with the other options,' he said.

Dr Jonathan Freedman, a GP in Hertfordshire who runs one of the few acupuncture clinics in the UK, said migraine was one of the conditions that responded best to acupuncture.

‘I hope that these reviews will act as an incentive for practice-based commissioning groups to consider acupuncture as a valid and cost effective alternative to other treatments for migraine sufferers and therefore make it more widely available on the NHS,' he said.

Acupuncture: recommended to tackle migraine and headache Acupuncture: recommended to tackle migraine and headache

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