Expert Answer: Acupuncture for migraine

Question: I am trying acupunture for a second time in a community setting. The acupuncturist suggested it would take a year for improvement? Is there any efficacy to thislong treatment?

Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for the treatment of headaches in several large clinical trials and in my practice I find that 60% of patients respond to acupuncture.

However, at least 40% of patients do not respond, regardless of the number of treatments they undergo. In fact, animals studies also find that 30% to 40% of animals do not respond to acupuncture. So, if you've tried it once without success, you may be one of the non-responders. I usually perform 4 or 5 weekly sessions and then, if headaches improve even a little, continue for a total of 10 - 12 sessions. These courses of acupuncture can be repeated every few months, if needed. Some people have a deep sense of relaxation even during the first session, which usually suggests that he or she is a responder. Others feel so uncomfortable, that it is also clear from the first session that they will not respond.

As far as undergoing acupuncture treatment for a year, yes it may help, but only because within a year headaches may improve even without any treatment. Considering the time and the cost involved, I would recommend trying regular aerobic exercise and relaxation training instead.

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