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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 this long 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Mike Hoyt
    4 years ago

    I found that acupuncture is an art, and not all acupuncturists are as talented at doing it as others. I found a Chinese doctor who studued in Beijing. After 7 years of 24/7 agonizing sciatic pain, 10 treatments (she also did cupping) it was GONE. That was 10 years ago! I say it’s worth trying. (But not for a whole year)

  • Molly Sweeny
    8 years ago

    I did acupuncture for a year while I lived in China. It didn’t work to prevent my migraines from coming – but if I could get to the hospital during an attack – it could stop it! I didn’t believe it could work – but it worked as well as any of the triptans… trouble is getting to the hospital ;(.

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