Date of Award


Degree Type

Selective Evidence-Based Medicine Review

Degree Name

Master of Science in Health Sciences - Physician Assistant


Physician Assistant Studies

Department Chair

John Cavenagh, MBA, PhD, PA-C


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this selective EBM review is to determine whether or not acupuncture is an effective treatment for acute migraines.

STUDY DESIGN: Review of three English language randomized controlled trials, published between 2003 and 2012.

DATA SOURCES: Three randomized controlled trials published in peer reviewed journals found using PubMed, Medline, and EBSCOhost.

OUTCOMES MEASURED: The outcomes measured included complete absence of migraine pain, measured by Visual Analog Scale scores and a headache diary, and progression to a fully formed migraine, measured by the Validated Pain Scale by Heller.

RESULTS: The studies by Li et al and Wang et al found a statistically significant number of patients were pain free, 24 hours following acupuncture, compared to sham acupuncture. The study by Melchart et al found statistically significant fewer patients progressed to a full migraine, 48 hours following acupuncture, compared to a Sumatriptan placebo.

CONCLUSIONS: The results showed acupuncture is an effective treatment for acute migraines, as evidenced by a significant number of patients experiencing complete absence of pain, or avoiding a full migraine after receiving acupuncture, as well as low numbers needed to treat (NNT) for all three studies. Additional research is needed in order to determine the type of acupuncture that is most effective in the treatment of migraines.