Doubt cast on needle therapy for migraine
By Nic Fleming, Health Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:05am BST 04/05/2005
Acupuncture is no better at reducing migraines than fake treatment, researchers say today.
A study involving more than 300 patients found the healing method did reduce headaches, but only by the same amount as placing needles at non-acupuncture points.
Recent studies have shown the needle treatment to be effective for relieving pain and improving function in osteoarthritis sufferers.
The treatment is becoming increasingly mainstream and is offered on the NHS following patient demand.
Some 10 per cent of Britons - two-thirds of them women - suffer from migraines and tens of thousands are believed to have acupuncture.
Dr Klaus Linde, of the centre for complementary medicine research at the Technische Universität in Munich, reports the findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Using information from patients' diaries, the researchers found the average number of days a week when patients in their acupuncture group had moderate or severe headaches dropped from 5.2 before treatment to three after.
Those in a sham acupuncture group also had 2.2 fewer days with headaches, down from five to 2.8 days. The research contradicts previous studies.
One published in the British Medical Journal last year suggested migraine patients who had acupuncture had 22 fewer days of headaches per year, made 25 per cent fewer visits to their GP and used 15 per cent less medication than those on standard NHS treatment.
George Lewith, a senior complementary medicine research fellow at Southampton University, dismissed the new research.
He said: "This is a badly conceived study that just adds more confusion to the debate because it uses non-site specific acupuncture as a control."