Acupuncture May Help Tension Headaches
Fewer Headaches With Acupuncture, Report German Researchers
July 28, 2005 -- Acupuncture may help tame tension headaches.
German researchers tested acupuncture on 270 adults with tension headaches.
Some patients got traditional acupuncture. Others got "minimal"
acupuncture, with needles placed superficially at nonacupuncture points. A
third group went on a wait list for acupuncture.
Both acupuncture groups had similar drops in headaches, with benefits
lasting months after treatment stopped.
The two methods may have been equally effective, or perhaps patients' high
hopes played a role, write the researchers in BMJ Online First.
Acupuncture has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands
of years. More recently, it's drawn
In traditional acupuncture, needles are placed in specific spots for
different conditions. The goal is to unblock or rebalance the flow of qi
(pronounced "chee"). Chinese medicine holds that qi is a type of energy
that flows along pathways called meridians in the body.
Relieving Tension Headaches
Lots of people wanted to sign up for this study. The researchers got about
2,700 applicants. They took only a tenth of that number.
About three-fourths were women. They were around 43 years old, on average.
Some had tension headaches more than 15 days per month; others had headaches
less often. None had migraines.
Both acupuncture groups got 16 half-hour sessions over 12 weeks. The
wait-listed group got acupuncture three months after the other patients.
Meanwhile, all patients kept headache diaries.
Headache-free days improved in the acupuncture groups during the first 12
- Traditional acupuncture: 7.2 more headache-free days
- Minimal acupuncture: 6.6 more headache-free days
- Wait list: 1.5 more headache-free days
The study lasted another 12 weeks. Some patients still had headache benefits
during that time, even though they weren't getting acupuncture any more.
That's "intriguing," write the researchers. They included Wolfgang
Weidenhammer of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research in Munich,
When the wait-listed patients finally got acupuncture, they also had fewer
headaches than before. But their improvements weren't as dramatic.
Patients' Beliefs, Side Effects
The researchers aren't sure if the results were due to acupuncture or to the
patient's "high expectations."
The patients weren't told which type of acupuncture treatment they were
getting. But some apparently figured it out, write the researchers.
Few patients had side effects. Their cases were not serious.
The most common side effects were headache or other pain, dizziness, and