Background: Acute migraine attacks effect 18% of women in the United States, and six to seven percent of men. The disabling nature of these attacks, in combination with their chronic patterns of occurrence, impact and disrupt multiple aspects of a person’s life. There are many abortive medications available, but none are free from side effects. Migraineurs continue to explore alternative treatment options for this continuous battle against acute migraine attacks. This systematic review examines the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of an acute migraine attack when compared to a control. The evidence was reviewed and evaluated using GRADE.
Method: A comprehensive review of the current medical literature was executed using PubMed, Web of Science, Medline, EBM Reviews, and CINHAL.
Results: Two studies were reviewed. One study compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture, and found acupuncture to be more effective at 2 and 4 hours after treatment, but not at earlier time points. The other study compared acupuncture to a placebo sumatriptan and sumatriptan when given at first signs of an attack, and established acupuncture to be more successful than the placebo sumatriptan in preventing a full attack.
Conclusion: Due to an overall moderate GRADE of evidence, more research is needed before acupuncture merits a strong recommendation as an option for treatment of acute migraine attack. However, acupuncture did demonstrate superiority in the treatment of an acute migraine attack when compared with a control, and should be considered as an alternative treatment option.
Keywords: Acupuncture, migraine, acute
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