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Power of Acupuncture to Ease Migraines Questioned in Study
Date:1/9/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- "Sham" acupuncture worked almost as well on migraine patients as three types of traditional acupuncture, a new study says.

Randomly assigning 480 patients to one of four groups at nine Chinese hospitals -- one sham acupuncture group and three receiving accepted types -- an international team of researchers, including Dr. Fan-rong Liang at Chengdu University in China, found that between 50 percent and 75 percent of those with migraines felt better after sham or real acupuncture, respectively, after 16 weeks.

Many prior randomized trials have supported acupuncture's effectiveness in treating migraines, which affect up to 8 percent of men and 18 percent of women in the United States and England, according to background information in the study. But the researchers noted evidence is mixed on whether the treatment produces a placebo effect in patients or actually alleviates symptoms.

Some U.S. doctors, however, felt the bulk of the evidence strongly stands in acupuncture's favor.

"I believe in acupuncture for pain," said Dr. Gayatri Devi, an attending neurologist in the department of medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "I think it makes a difference, and while people really don't understand how it works, the fact is that it does work. It doesn't seem to matter how you put in the needles . . . I think as a treatment for pain, acupuncture should be embraced."

The study is published Jan. 9 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 65, had experienced migraines for more than a year and had had two or three attacks in the three months preceding the study. All four groups received 20 treatments, including electrical stimulation therapy, over four weeks.

Patients in the three traditional acupuncture groups reported fewer days with a migraine in th
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