Migraine and Headache Treatment with Acupuncture

Migraine and Headache Treatment with Acupuncture

Dr. Smitherman is not an acupuncturist, but is an expert in the treatment of migraines and headaches. Dr. Smitherman has had patients work with acupuncturists for integrative care with many conditions. Dr. Smitherman has found acupuncture can be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan for many patients. It can be particularly important for patients who are adverse to medications.

What Does the Research Say?

When doing research, the highest level of evidence is a systematic review. There is a database called the Cochrane Library that houses many systematic reviews. The Cochrane library did a systematic review in 2016 on Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraines. The summary of the review was “The available evidence suggests that a course of acupuncture consisting of at least six treatment sessions can be a valuable option for people with migraine.”. (1)

In a very important study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine in 2017, a study was conducted on the long term effects of acupuncture for prophylaxis of migraine. In the study patients received 20 sessions of acupuncture over 4 weeks, and the researchers concluded “true acupuncture may be associated with long-term reduction in migraine recurrence compared with sham acupuncture or assigned to a waiting list.” (2)

An additional study performed in 2015 with a one year follow up found that “Manual acupuncture was an effective and safe treatment for short-term relief of frequent migraine in adults.” This study was very important for the long term follow up. It helps give us evidence that acupuncture can be effective in the long term. (3)

How do I find a good acupuncturist?

Dr. Smitherman works with Dr. Diane Russell, who is an acupuncturist in Vancouver, Washington. If you are outside of the Vancouver, Washington area but have a healthcare provider, a recommendation from your current provider may be the best place to start. Other important factors when looking for an acupuncturist are their areas of speciality, and reputation in the community.

Can I do acupuncture in combination with my other treatments?

Acupuncture is considered a low risk treatment, and there are very few reasons why a person would be recommended to avoid acupuncture treatment. Dr. Smitherman finds that migraine headache patients will respond better to treatment, and receive more benefit from an integrative team approach.

Does insurance cover acupuncture?

Some insurance covers acupuncture. It is important to check with your insurance plan on your benefits. Without insurance coverage, acupuncture is considered a relatively less expensive treatment.

How many sessions of acupuncture will I need?

As you read earlier in the blog, patients can receive up to 20 sessions in a month of acupuncture for results. However, many patients will respond to less treatments, particularly when they are using an integrative approach.

If you think you could benefit from working with Dr. Smitherman please book a free 15 minute consultation or appointment online.


  1. Linde, K., Allais, G., Brinkhaus, B., et al. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane database syst rev. 2016. Jun;(6): CD001218 Published online 2016 Jun 28. Doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub3
  2. Zhao, L., Chen, J., Li, Y., Sun, X., Chang, X., Zheng, H., Gong, B., Huang, Y., Yang, M., Wu, X., Li, X., Liang, F. The long term effects of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Apr 1;177(4):508-515. Doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9378.
  3. Wang, Y., Xue, C., Helme, R, Costa, C., Zheng, Z. Acupuncture for frequent migraine: a randomized, patient/assessor blinded, control trial with one-year follow-up. Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine. 2015; Published online 2015 Apr 28. Doi: 10.1155/2015/920353