Can Acupuncture Help Prevent Migraine Attacks?

There are many different ways in which the migraine community seeks out reliefs for migraine pain. We know that common relief methods include the use of acute medications like triptans and preventive treatments such as Botox. Such drug therapies can be effective in the short-term, but not everyone is keen to be reliant on medications; plus, drugs may also come with unwanted lasting side effects depending on each individual. 

In recent years, migraine warriors have been exploring alternative non-medicinal therapies for their migraine attacks and one of them includes acupuncture. Let’s take a look at what acupuncture is and how it may help with your migraine attacks! 

 

What Is Acupuncture?

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Acupuncture involves piercing specific areas of the body with needles to produce therapeutic effects. This kind of medicine first originated in China and the main aim of acupuncture is to relieve pain in various areas of the body. The Chinese practice is based on the principle that there are fourteen meridians in the body, and that there is energy (‘qi’) along the meridians. It is believed that if the energy in these meridians is altered or disturbed in any way, the person may feel pain or illness. 

There are two main types of acupuncture. The first is the Chinese variation, which aims to correct a disturbed flow of ‘qi’ in the body. Needles will be placed at specific pressure points and needle placements are individualized. The other type is the western medicinal acupuncture which is adapted from the Chinese variation and is administered based on the scientific effects of needling. 

 

Role of Acupuncture in Prevention of Migraine

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The effects of acupuncture in the migraine community have been largely mixed. To investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine, researchers reviewed 22 clinical trials with a total of 4,985 participants [1]. These trials compared the results of those who received acupuncture treatment versus control groups that received either no acupuncture, sham acupuncture (a placebo type of acupuncture where the needles do not penetrate the skin or are inserted away from the acupuncture points), or preventive drugs treatment. 

For those who did not receive acupuncture in the control groups, the reduction in headache frequency was 17% while participants who were treated with acupuncture saw at least a 41% decrease in headache frequency [1]. In one of the trials which included a 12-month follow-up, headache scores were lower in those who had received acupuncture treatment compared to the control group – an equivalent of 22 fewer days of headache per year [2]. 

The review paper also shared that acupuncture lowered migraine frequency significantly more than preventive medications. 57% of participants who received acupuncture for three months reported that their headache frequency had at least halved compared to 46% of participants who received prophylactic drugs [1]. The likelihood of dropping out from the trial due to side effects was also lower in the acupuncture group [3].

 

Is It Worth Trying?

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While the people who participated in those trials noticed a positive change in the frequency of their attacks, anecdotal experiences from the Migraine Buddy community revealed otherwise:

Lauren: “The results I had were very temporary if at all. I might feel relief for an hour but then the attack would come back. Not a viable treatment for migraine. A few times it seemed to actually trigger a migraine…”

Sophie: “I got acupuncture twice a week for two months and I got no relief.”

Nana: “I only got relief during the treatment and would always fall asleep - I would wake up feeling better but it never lasted :(“

It remains unknown to doctors and medical specialists as to why some people respond better to acupuncture. However, we should keep an open mind to alternative methods like acupuncture even if they don’t significantly impact the migraine attacks directly. Acupuncture can help to relieve general body pain, such as neck pain, and these pains may trigger migraine attacks for some people!


Acupuncture is an up-and-coming area in the preventive treatment of migraine attacks. As this form of therapy for migraine is still relatively novel, one needs to be cautious when exploring new treatments like this. Similar to any other treatments, do remember to consult your healthcare physician for advice to see if you would suit an alternative therapy like acupuncture!  

Within Migraine Buddy, 1,817 users had given acupuncture a shot (no pun intended) and rated it at least somewhat helpful for their migraine! Despite this small sample size, it is still a prospective area to explore if you’re looking for alternative options.

Have you tried acupuncture before? Share with us your experience in the chat group link below if you did! We would love to hear more from the community! ??