Patients receiving acupuncture have fewer days with migraine, but the effects of the intervention on migraine frequency and quality of life is ‘minor’ compared with sham acupuncture, say researchers.
The randomised control trial included 480 patients at hospitals in China, aged 18 to 65, who had experienced migraines for at least one year – with two or more attacks per month in the preceding three months. Participants were assigned to four study groups, one group (the control) received sham acupuncture while the other three received different types of acupuncture, for four weeks.
In a result that the researchers claimed showed the effects of the ‘non-specific’ effects of acupuncture, patients receiving acupuncture reported significantly fewer days with migraine during 13 to 16 weeks after randomisation, compared with controls (mean number of days with a migraine was 2.2, 2.1 and 2.4 in treatment groups, compared with 3.3 in the sham acupuncture group).
There was also a significant benefit for the acupuncture groups in migraine frequency, intensity and migraine-specific quality of life. But, the authors concluded that these improved outcomes were ‘clinically minor’.
Those receiving acupuncture also reported fewer days with a migraine, compared with the control group, during the four weeks after treatment (weeks five to eight). But these results were not statistically significant.
Study author Professor Fan-rong Liang, vice-president at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China, said that the non-specific effects of acupuncture, such as expectations and interactions with the practitioner, ‘may play a prominent role’.