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Migraine Madness: How I Truly Began to Believe in Acupuncture

March 29th, 2010 No comments

Acupuncture did wonders for my migraines.  I had it so bad before that i had status migranosus for a week.  Imagine a whole week of having most lights and sounds burn like soldering torches.  Imagine a whole week of misery and pain.  That was the worst, thankfully.  Typically my mood would be trashed, my eyes heavy, and my head pounding.

That was there for years, only mildly relieved by sumatriptan and once I even needed ergotamine given in hospital.  I thought I was doomed to a life of drugs.

Until acupuncture.

One treatment.

Since then, for five years, nothing.  They’ve only began to return mildly recently – time for a “booster treatment”.

Anyway, once can see why I am “biased” towards acupuncture – it worked for me.

It’s also quite nice to see it verified by western medicine:

Acupuncture Eases Migraine Headache Pain
Acupuncture May Be Cost-Effective Option for Treating Chronic Headache

(http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/news/20040315/acupuncture-migraine-headache-pain)

Note the term “cost-effective option”.  This means basically that it’s an option that uses up less money in the long run.  Hence, the patient benefits from the same health effects but at less cost.

By Jennifer Warner

WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

March 15, 2004 — Acupuncture may provide lasting relief from the pain of chronic headaches, such as migraines, according to a new study.

Researchers found that compared with standard medical care, acupuncture offers substantial benefits in preventing headaches and improving the quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, especially migraines.

Acupuncture is commonly used to treat other types of chronic pain, but researchers say this is the first large-scale study to examine the effectiveness of acupuncture under real-life conditions. They say the results indicate that health insurance coverage of acupuncture services should be expanded to include the treatment of chronic headaches and migraine.

Darned right it should.

Pins and Needles Ease Migraine Pain

In the study, published in the March 15 issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers randomly divided 401 adults aged 18-65 years old with chronic headache (at least two headaches a month) — into two treatment groups. Participants had a history of having mostly migraine headaches.

I just found it interesting that six years ago, the BMJ seemed to support articles on acupuncture.  Now it publishes an editorial (not even a news article!) totally biased against it (see previous post).

One group received up to 12 acupuncture sessions during a three-month period in addition to standard medical care, and the other group received standard care alone.

A year later, researchers found those who received acupuncture:

  • Experienced 22 fewer days with headaches
  • Used 15% less medication
  • Made 25% fewer visits to their doctor
  • Took 15% fewer days off sick from work than the control group
  • In my case it was no headaches, 100% less medication, 100% fewer visits and no sick days from work since the acupuncture.

    One session btw.

    Researchers say one limitation of their study is that the control group did not receive a sham acupuncture intervention. Therefore, some of the benefits found among the acupuncture group may have not been caused by the actual treatment but because of the “placebo effect,” which is based on the patient’s expectations of benefit from treatment rather than the effectiveness of the treatment itself.

    But researchers say previous placebo-controlled studies have already shown that acupuncture is superior to placebo in treating migraine.

    In a related study published in the same journal, British researchers found that acupuncture improves the quality of life for people with chronic headaches at a small additional cost. They say the findings show that acupuncture is a relatively cost-effective headache therapy compared with other treatments covered by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.

    A recent study I found (not online but I have the PDF file) entitled “Efficacy of Acupuncture for the Prophylaxis of Migraine: A multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial” (Lancet Neurology 2006;5:310-16)

    The results were:

    Findings Of 1295 patients screened, 960 were randomly assigned to a treatment group. Immediately after randomisation, 125 patients (106 from the standard group) withdrew their consent to study participation. 794 patients were analysed in the intention-to-treat popoulation and 443 in the per-protocol population. The primary outcome showed a mean reduction of 2·3 days (95% CI 1·9–2·7) in the verum acupuncture group, 1·5 days (1·1–2·0) in the sham acupuncture group, and 2·1 days (1·5–2·7) in the standard therapy group. These differences were statistically significant compared with baseline (p<0·0001), but not across the treatment groups (p=0·09). The proportion of responders, defined as patients with a reduction of migraine days by at least 50%, 26 weeks after randomisation, was 47% in the verum group, 39% in the sham acupuncture group, and 40% in the standard group (p=0·133).

    The “verum” group was defined as receiving true acupuncture, the sham were placed in random points and standard as… standard western medical care.  Note that the condition for success was “reduction of migraine days”.  Personally I find that some patients can respond by having the same amount of headaches but less intensity and duration – they hurt much less and last shorter.

    Anyway the results still show that real acupuncture works better than either sham or standard treatment.  Not statistically significant, but significant to patients.

    And doctors like me.

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