March 2, 2006

Acupuncture shown to relieve migraines: study

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Acupuncture, one of the most popular
complementary treatments, works as well as standard drugs for
migraines, German researchers said on Thursday.

They compared the effects of real and fake acupuncture with
drug treatments for migraine and found all equally effective.

"The main finding is that Chinese acupuncture is as
effective as drug treatment for the prophylaxis of migraine,"
said Hans-Christoph Diener, a neurologist at the University of
Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

"Secondly, sham acupuncture is as effective as traditional
Chinese acupuncture," he told Reuters.

All of the more than 900 patients who had been randomly
selected to receive Chinese acupuncture, sham acupuncture or
drugs reported similar improvements and reductions in the
number of migraine-free days.

"This tells us that Chinese acupuncture is not a very
specific treatment," said Diener.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves inserting fine
needles at specific energy meridians of the body to reduce
pain. In the so-called sham procedure the needles were put in
places that were not traditional acupuncture points.

The ancient Chinese therapy has been shown to relieve
nausea, stress, arthritis pain in the knee and pelvic pain
during pregnancy.

"What we showed is that acupuncture is effective but we
need more research to find out the biological effect behind
it," added Diener, who reported his findings in The Lancet
Neurology journal.

Migraine affects about 15 percent of people in Britain
alone. Symptoms can include intense throbbing on one side of
the head, distorted vision, nausea or vomiting and raised
sensitivity to light, sounds and smells.

An attack can last up to three days and prevent the
sufferer from carrying out normal, everyday activities.
Although anyone can get a migraine, it is most common between
the ages of 20 and 50 and most sufferers are women.

Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can help to relieve
the pain and reduce inflammation. Many patients also try other
therapies such as acupressure, homeopathy, osteopathy and

"The most important result is that all three treatments
were effective and that improvement in the number of migraine
days was closely similar in all treatment groups," Diener said
in the study.

"The decision whether acupuncture should be used in
migraine prevention remains with the treating physician," he