In one of the largest studies of its kind to date, a team of investigators in Italy examined the effectiveness of acupuncture versus a variety of pharmacological therapies in treating migraines. Their results, published in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, revealed that patients given acupuncture experienced fewer migraine episodes, missed fewer days from work, and suffered no side effects compared to patients on conventional drug therapy. They also found acupuncture to be more cost-efficient, estimating a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars in private and social health expenditures if it were used to treat headaches alone instead of Western drugs.
Migraines can be caused by a variety of physical and environmental factors including diet, stress, allergens, menstruation, and changes in the weather. They can last from a few minutes to several days, which in some cases may completely incapacitate the person suffering an attack.
Acupuncture has been cited by the World Health Organization to treat over 43 conditions, including headaches and migraines, without the side effects typically associated with Western drugs. According to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, nearly one out of every 10 adults in the United States has tried acupuncture.
Migraine headaches are also one of the leading causes of time missed from work. It is estimated that migraine sufferers lose more than 157 million workdays each year, leading to a loss of approximately $50 billion per year due to absenteeism and medical expenses. An additional four billion dollars a year is spent on pain relievers for migraines and other headaches.