Acupuncture for Migraine Only a Placebo?

The American Headache Society supports that Traditional & “Sham” Acupuncture Both Effective for Migraine Relief. In contrast, after reviewing the studies mentioned in the AHS press release, Steven Novella of NeuroLogica Blog claims that the American Headache Society Recommends Placebos for Migraine. He writes,

Studies show that sham acupuncture is as effective as true acupuncture, and Dr. Dodick concludes from this that both work. The proper scientific interpretation of this result is that the treatment (acupuncture) is no different than placebo (sham acupuncture) and therefore has only a placebo effect.

Novella’s argument is sound and I agree with his conclusions. What intrigues me is why the American Headache Society and its president, David Dodick, are touting the benefits for acupuncture when the science is weak. Is it that there are so few effective treatments for migraine that even those without strong evidence are considered worthwhile?

It reminds me of when I was considering Botox injections and was surprised to find that studies only showed minor reductions in headache days of participants. From headlines, you’d think Botox had eradicated migraine, but studies have had only modest results.

The paltry options for treating migraine and the lack of funding for migraine research are disheartening. Urge Congress to take notice by signing the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy’s petition.

 Thanks to reader C. Peterson for sharing NeuroLogica Blog’s post.

3 thoughts on “Acupuncture for Migraine Only a Placebo?”

  1. What about chiropractic? Have you ever tried that? Perhaps if you received routine adjustments, some relief may come from them. Chiropractic may help you.

  2. I have Chronic migraines and Acupuncture does work for me . I have used it in the past for my fibromyalgia and I was on 4 pain killers at the time and it did allow me to go off all the meds. With Midrin off the market, Imitrex doesn’t work for me. Just make sure you go to a well trained person if you go forward with it. =)

  3. Well, in my opinion, relief is relief. Do patients who get relief from the sham acupuncture procedure not really feel better? That’s how I’m looking at this.

    I had acupuncture and it did help me. Can’t remember how many sessions (I believe it was fewer than 10) but I still feel a better flow of energy even today. My treatments were 3 or 4 years ago, can’t remember now, but they’re still helping.

    If people get relief from the placebo effect, that’s cool with me. Really, relief is relief as far as I’m concerned provided it’s not dangerous or expensive. It’s clear science hasn’t figured out what makes the placebo effect so effective but can be quite effective.

    And really, the placebo effect might not be the operative relief mechanism here. From the way I’m reading it, the findings were that both procedures were effective. There might be something other than placebo, something science hasn’t figured out how to measure, that’s providing relief to both groups. Yes, migraine deserves FAR MORE FUNDING FOR RESEARCH than we get now.

    People have been getting relief from many things for as long as people have been around. Thanks for a good article.

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