Patients recorded their symptoms and acute medication use in a headache diary.
Acupuncture may reduce headaches for people with chronic tension headaches, according to a study published online in Neurology†
Tension headaches cause a feeling of pressure or tightness on both sides of the head with a mild to moderate intensity. These types of headaches are considered chronic if they occur at least 15 days a month.
“Tension headaches are one of the most common types of headaches, and people who have a lot of these headaches may be looking for alternatives to medication,” said study author Ying Li, MD, PhD, of the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chengdu, China. , in a press release. “Our study found that acupuncture reduces the average number of headache days per month for those struggling with these painful and disruptive headache attacks.”
The study included 218 people who had chronic tension headaches for an average of 11 years with 22 headache days per month. The participants were randomized to receive either true acupuncture or superficial acupuncture. True acupuncture treatments create a deqi sensation, where a needle is placed and moved into the body to produce a tingling, numb, or heaviness. Superficial treatments had a smaller depth in the body to avoid the deqi feeling.
Both groups received 2 or 3 sessions per week for a total of 20 sessions for 2 months and were followed for an additional 6 months.
The results showed at least a 50% reduction in the number of headache days, and all participants had clinic visits every 4 weeks. In addition, patients recorded their symptoms and use of acute medications in a headache diary.
The study found that 68% of people who received real acupuncture reported a reduction in the monthly number of headache days by at least 50% compared to 50% of those who received superficial acupuncture.
The researchers noted that the number of monthly headache days after treatment gradually decreased in both patient groups who received real acupuncture treatments and superficial acupuncture treatments. Headache days decreased from 20 days per month in those who received true acupuncture from the start of the study to 7 days per month at the end of the study. With superficial acupuncture, the number of headache days decreased from 23 days per month at the start of the study to 12 days per month at the end of the study.
“While this study showed that acupuncture can reduce headaches, more research is needed to determine the longer-term effectiveness of acupuncture and how it compares to other treatment options,” Li said in the press release. “When comparing treatment options, cost-effectiveness is another important factor to evaluate.”
A study limitation was that the study was conducted in a single hospital, so the results may not be representative of all populations.
CAN ACUPUNCTURE REDUCE HEADACHE? American Academy of Neurology. June 22, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/4995