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J Adv Nurs. 2006 May;54(4):491-501.

Effectiveness of acupuncture for migraine: critical literature review.

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  • 1Shepway Primary Care Trust, Kent, UK.



The aim of this paper is to evaluate previous research studies on acupuncture for migraine with reference to the Standards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture guidelines.


It is estimated that around 2-15% of the world's population are affected by migraine headaches. Thirteen per cent of adults in the United Kingdom suffer with chronic pain, migraine headaches accounting for 7% of cases. Migraine pain relief is grounded in pharmacology. Acupuncture for migraine has been widely researched. However, inconsistent and low quality results have been produced. Recently, published Standards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Randomized Trials of Acupuncture guidelines recommend important information that must be included in research in order to be valid and reliable.


Searches were conducted between September 2003 and May 2004 using the Ovid Medline 1966-2004, British Medical Journal, Blackwell Synergy, Science Direct, The Lancet and Cochrane Library Issue 1 databases. Searches were limited to the previous 20 years and to publications in the English language only.


Thirteen randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria and were critically reviewed for methodological quality, reporting of acupuncture needling details, practitioner background, control interventions and use of a diagnostic criterion. Findings agreed with previous literature reviews that the majority of studies of acupuncture for migraine research are of poor quality, with conflicting results. Few studies met the criteria of the Standards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture recommendations. Overall, the quality of research in this area must be questioned.


In the light of these findings, practitioners may face a dilemma when considering the use of acupuncture for migraine. Therefore, large, high quality randomized controlled trials of acupuncture for migraine are needed. Until better quality research is published, with verification of the benefits of acupuncture for migraine, provision of this alternative therapy should not be expanded or withdrawn.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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