To evaluate the effect and safety of acupuncture for acute migraine attacks in adults.
Design and setting We searched PubMed, MEDLINE(OVID), Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Chinese Science and Technology Periodical Database and Wanfang database from inception to 15 July 2022. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) published in Chinese and English comparing acupuncture alone against sham acupuncture/placebo/no treatment/pharmacological therapy or comparing acupuncture plus pharmacological therapy against the same pharmacological therapy. Results were reported as risk ratios (RRs) for dichotomous outcomes or mean differences (MDs) for continuous outcomes, with 95% CIs. Risk of bias was assessed with the Cochrane tool and the certainty of the evidence (CoE) with GRADE.
Main outcome measures a) The rate of headache freedom (pain score=0) at 2h after the treatment; b) the rate of headache relief (at least 50% reduction of pain score); c) headache intensity at 2h after the treatment(study data from scales measuring pain intensity, including visual analogue scale, numerical rating scale) d) the improvement of headache intensity at 2h after the treatment; e) the improvement values of migraine-associated symptoms; f) adverse events.
Results We included 21 RCTs from 15 studies with 1926 participants comparing acupuncture against other interventions. Comparing to sham acupuncture or placebo, acupuncture may result in an increase in the rate of headache freedom (RR 6.03, 95% CI 1.62 to 22.41, 180 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, low CoE) and the improvement of headache intensity (MD 0.51, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.85, 375 participants, 5 studies, I2=13%, moderate CoE) at 2 hours after treatment. It also may result on a higher rate of headache relief (RR 2.29, 95% CI 1.16 to 4.49, 179 participants,3 studies, I2=74%, very low CoE) and greater improvement of migraine-associated symptoms (MD 0.97, 95% CI 0.33 to 1.61, 90 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, very low CoE) at 2 hours after treatment but the evidence is very uncertain. Meanwhile the analysis indicates acupuncture probably results in little to no difference in adverse events compared with sham acupuncture (RR 1.53, 95% CI 0.82 to 2.87, 884 participants, 10 studies, I2=0%, moderate CoE). In acupuncture plus pharmacological intervention versus the same pharmacological intervention, acupuncture plus pharmacological therapy may result in little to no difference in the rate of headache freedom (RR 1.55, 95% CI 0.99 to 2.42, 94 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, low CoE), the rate of headache relief (RR 1.20, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.57, 94 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, low CoE) at 2 hours after treatment and adverse events(RR 1.48, 95% CI 0.25 to 8.92, 94 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, low CoE). However, it may result in a reduction in headache intensity (MD −1.05, 95% CI −1.49 to −0.62, 129 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, low CoE) and an increase in the improvement of headache intensity (MD 1.18, 95% CI 0.41 to 1.95, 94 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, low CoE) at 2 hours after treatment compared with pharmacological therapy only. In comparison to pharmacological intervention, acupuncture may result in little to no difference in the rate of headache freedom (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.52, 294 participants, 4 studies, I2=22%, low CoE), the rate of headache relief (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.14, 206 participants, 3 studies. I2=0%, low CoE) at 2 hours and adverse events (RR 0.65, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.22, 294 participants, 4 studies, I2=0%, low CoE) after treatment. The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of acupuncture on the headache intensity (MD −0.07, 95% CI −1.11 to 0.98, 641 participants, 5 studies, I2=98%, very low CoE) and the improvement of headache intensity (MD −0.32, 95% CI −1.07 to 0.42, 95 participants, 2 studies, I2=0%, very low CoE) at 2 hours after treatment compared with pharmacological intervention.
Conclusion The body of evidence suggests that acupuncture may be more effective than sham acupuncture in the treatment of migraine. Acupuncture may also be as effective as pharmacological therapy. However, the certainty evidence across outcomes was low to very low and new high-quality studies can provide more clarity.
PROSPERO registration number CRD42014013352.
- Headache Disorders
- Systematic Reviews as Topic
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request. The datasets were used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
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YW and RD contributed equally.
Contributors SZ is the lead and the guarantor of this review. YW, RD and HC conceptualised the review and drafted the manuscript. HC, LZ and HY set up and performed the research strategy. YW and RD independently searched the databases and extracted data from included studies. YW and RD revised the review critically. All authors read and provided amendment on the draft and approved the final manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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