Summary: Researchers report that acupuncture can help relieve symptoms for those who suffer from chronic tension headaches.
Acupuncture may reduce headaches in people who have chronic tension-type headaches, according to a study published in the June 22, 2022, online edition of Neurology.
Tension-type headaches most often involve a feeling of pressure or tightness on both sides of the head with mild to moderate intensity. These headaches do not get worse with physical activity and do not include nausea. Tension-type headaches are considered chronic when they occur at least 15 days a month.
“Tension-type 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 medications,” said study author Ying Li, MD, PhD. , from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chengdu, China.
“Our study found that acupuncture reduces the average number of headache days per month for those who struggle with these painful and disruptive headache attacks.”
The study involved 218 people who were diagnosed with chronic tension-type headaches. They had chronic tension-type headaches for an average of 11 years and had 22 days a month with headaches on average. Participants were randomly assigned to receive true acupuncture or superficial acupuncture.
True acupuncture treatments involved achieving a deqi sensation, which involves placing and moving a needle in the body to achieve a sensation of tingling, numbness, or heaviness. Superficial treatments had less depth in the body to avoid achieving deqi sensation.
Both groups received two or three sessions per week, for a total of 20 sessions, for two months and were followed for an additional six months.
The main outcome measured in the study was a reduction of at least 50% in the number of days with headaches. All participants had clinic visits every four weeks. They also used headache diaries to record their symptoms and acute medication use.
At the end of the study, 68% of people who received true acupuncture reported a reduction of at least 50% in the monthly number of days with headache compared to 50% of people who received superficial acupuncture.
The researchers found that the number of monthly headache days gradually decreased after treatment, both in those receiving true acupuncture treatments and superficial acupuncture treatments.
For those who received real acupuncture, headache days fell from 20 days per month at the start of the study to seven days per month at the end of the study.
For those who received superficial acupuncture, headache days fell from 23 days per month at the start of the study to 12 days per month at the end of the study.
The only side effects of the treatment were mild and did not require treatment.
“While this study showed that acupuncture can reduce headaches, more research is needed to determine the long-term effectiveness of acupuncture and how it compares to other treatment options,” Li said. “When comparing treatment options, cost-effectiveness is another important factor to evaluate.”
One limitation of the study was that the research was conducted in a hospital, so the results may not apply to all populations.
Money: The study was supported by the Department of Science and Technology of Sichuan Province and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
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Author: natalia conrad
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original research: Findings will appear in Neurology