Pop singer Gwen Stefani was plagued with debilitating migraines during each of her pregnancies. The mother of three wanted to avoid medications, and so she gave the time-honored Chinese medicine treatment acupuncture a try, often daily.
And it turns out Stefani was onto something. A new study published in BMJ suggests acupuncture can reduce migraines.
The researchers looked at 147 people, average age 37, who suffered two to eight migraines (without auras) each month, and had never undergone acupuncture.
One group underwent 20 sessions of 30-minute manual acupuncture at real acupuncture points over the course of eight weeks; another had the same number of sessions over eight weeks, but with sham acupuncture. A third group tried standard care, which included lifestyle adjustments.
After the eight weeks of treatment, the researchers followed the participants for 12 more weeks. People who received real acupuncture had 1.4 fewer migraine days in weeks 13 to 16, and 2.1 fewer migraine days in weeks 17 to 20.
That's a lot of relief. And it's not surprising, because acupuncture is often used to ease chronic pain conditions, including lower back and joint pain, and to alleviate stress and manage depression.
If you're a frequent migraine sufferer (more than 1 billion people in the world are), ask your doctor about trying acupuncture, which may be covered by health insurance, especially if the practitioner works out of a physician's office.
In combination with medications that prevent migraine or ease symptoms, you may find you are able to significantly reduce the frequency of attacks.