Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment or Prevention of Migraine, Tension-Type Headache, or Chronic Headache Disorders

Headache. 2016 Jul;56(7):1238-40. doi: 10.1111/head.12857. Epub 2016 Jul 13.


Objective: To summarize the current evidence that evaluates the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment or prevention of migraine, tension-type headache, and chronic headache disorders.

Methods: Findings from selected systematic reviews and meta-analyses are summarized.

Results: Recently published systematic reviews and meta-analyses demonstrate that acupuncture is associated with improved clinical outcomes compared to routine care only, medical management, and sham acupuncture 2 months after randomization. The evidence in support of acupuncture's comparative effectiveness at longer follow-up periods is mixed. Cost effectiveness analyses conducted in the United Kingdom and Germany suggest that acupuncture is a cost-effective treatment option in those countries. There are few or no cost-effectiveness studies of acupuncture in the United States.

Discussion: This brief review of the current, published evidence does not include a discussion of potential risks or adverse events associated with acupuncture. There is also the question of the extent to which placebo effects might contribute to acupuncture's clinical effectiveness. From a purely comparative effectiveness perspective, however, the evidence from clinical trials and meta-analyses makes a compelling case in support of a potentially important role for acupuncture as part of a treatment plan for patients with migraine, tension-type headache, and several different types of chronic headache disorders.

Keywords: acupuncture; chronic daily headache; headache disorders; migraine; tension-type headache.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy* / methods
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Migraine Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Tension-Type Headache / prevention & control*
  • Tension-Type Headache / therapy*