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Pediatr Neurol. 1997 Sep; 17(2): 129-33.

Acupuncture and the opioid system: implications in management of migraine.

Pintov S, Lahat E, Alstein M, Vogel Z, Barg J.

Department of Neurobiology; the Weizmann Institute of Science; Rehovot, Israel.

We investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture in childhood migraine in 22 children with migraine, randomly divided into two groups: a true acupuncture group (12 children) and a placebo acupuncture group (10 children). Ten healthy children served as a control group. Opioid activity in blood plasma was assayed by two methods: (1) determination of total (panopioid) activity with an opiate radioreceptor assay, and (2) determination of beta-endorphinlike immunoreactivity by radioimmunoassay. The true acupuncture treatment led to significant clinical reduction in both migraine frequency and intensity. At the beginning of the study, significantly greater panopioid activity was evident in plasma of the control group than in plasma of the migraine group. The true acupuncture group showed a gradual increase in the panopioid activity in plasma, which correlated with the clinical improvement. After the tenth treatment, the values of opioid activity of the true acupuncture group were similar to those of the control group, whereas the plasma of the placebo acupuncture group exhibited insignificant changes in plasma panopioid activity. In addition, a significant increase in beta-endorphin levels was observed in the migraine patients who were treated in the true acupuncture group as compared with the values before treatment or with the values of the placebo acupuncture group. The results suggest that acupuncture may be an effective treatment in children with migraine headaches and that it leads to an increase in activity of the opioidergic system.

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