Study shows acupuncture may reduce frequency of migraine attacks

Image 1 of 19

When a physician friend first told Sarah Grantham this might help her migraines, she wasn't too excited about the idea of having needles placed into her skin.

"Honestly, it scared me," the Atlanta 26-year old says. 

WATCH: Can acupuncture relieve migraines?

Grantham was no fan of needles.  

But the smallest things, like sunlight, or heat, or a storm coming in could leave her in such crippling pain, Grantham was taking a prescription medication every night to try to prevent another attack.

 "And my migraines could be simple,  or they could put me in the hospital sometimes," Grantham says. 

So in April of 2016, Grantham started coming to CentreSpring MD, a Brookhaven medical practice that combines mainstream and alternative medicine.  

Founder Dr. Taz Bhatia, who goes professionally by Dr. Taz,  says she's seen acupuncture help patients who haven't gotten relief from medication.

The needles, placed in specific acupuncture points along the body, are thought to open up energy blockages Chinese medicine practitioners believe can make us sick.

"So, I think part of it is it's moving energy, it's changing energy," Dr. Taz explains. "And, as it becomes repetitive, you're changing a person's chemistry."

Grantham says the needles worked for her.

"It's awesome," she says.  "I haven't had a migraine since April, when I started. And I've had them since I was 13, and I'm 26 now."

A Chinese study recently published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found regular acupuncture treatments were able to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in some sufferers.

Volunteers, most of whom suffer from migraines without a visual aura, were divided into 3 groups.

One group got "true" or real acupuncture treatments 5 times a week for a month.

The second group got "sham" or fake treatments.

And the third group was wait listed for acupuncture treatments.

The group who got the real treatments had 1.8 fewer migraines a month, dropping from 4.8 attacks to 3 a month.

But Dr. Taz says acupuncture is so highly-individualized, it's almost impossible compare how large groups of people will respond to the needles.

"Anytime you're going to study Chinese medicine, or Ayurvedic medicine, and try to understand its merits, you have to start with the understanding that it is not a one-size-fits-all medical paradigm," says Dr. Taz.  "It is completely different."

"So the exact same protocol may be fantastic for one of those people," she says.  "But, it may not work for the others in the trial."

Sarah Grantham doesn't know how, or why, the needles are working for her. 

She's just grateful she tried them.