Can acupuncture help relieve long-term tension headaches? Scientists seem to agree.

People who suffer from chronic tension-type headaches may find relief from their condition through the use of acupuncture, according to the findings of a study that was recently published in the online issue of Neurology®, the official magazine of the American Academy of Neurology.

The author of the study, Ying Li, MD, Ph.D., of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chengdu, China, said in a statement that “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 medication.” According to the findings of our research, acupuncture is effective in reducing the number of headache days that sufferers experience on average per month. Headaches can be extremely painful and annoying.

A technique that dates back thousands of years and is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It involves entering the skin with solid metallic needles that are very thin and are activated by the practitioner’s hands using very specific movements or by using electrical stimulation. It is well recognized that this treatment is useful for a wide range of problems, such as headaches, addiction, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, and lower back pain.

The practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believed that the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points that are linked together by channels or meridians. These pathways are principally responsible for the body’s health as a whole since they generate an energy flow that circulates throughout the body. It is well knowledge that diseases can be brought on by an interruption in the flow of energy. It is believed that applying acupuncture to specific spots can increase the flow, which will ultimately result in improved health. Participants had experienced headaches of the tension-type for an average of 11 years before the study.
The most typical kind of headache sufferers get is called a tension headache. It can range in intensity from mild to moderate and is characterized by a pressing or tightening sensation on both sides of the head. These headaches are not made worse by physical exercise, nor are they accompanied by feelings of nausea. When someone suffers from tension headaches at least 15 days a month, they are said to have chronic tension headaches.

The research involved 218 participants who had been previously identified as suffering from persistent tension-type headaches. They suffered from chronic headaches of the tension variety for an average duration of 11 years and experienced headaches for an average of 22 days per month.

The participants were split into two groups at random: those who would be treated with genuine acupuncture, and those who would be treated with a more superficial form of the practice.

Acupuncture and Migraine | American Migraine Foundation


Actual acupuncture treatments require producing a deqi sensation, which consists of placing and manipulating a needle in the body to obtain a tingling, numbness, or heaviness feeling. This can be accomplished by placing the needle in specific points throughout the meridians of the body. To prevent producing the deqi sensation, the superficial treatments were performed at a shallower depth in the body.

Both groups participated in two or three sessions each week, for a total of twenty sessions over two months, and they were then monitored for an additional six months.

The number of days per month when headaches were experienced dropped from 20 to 7.
According to the findings of the study, patients who underwent real acupuncture experienced a reduction in the monthly number of headache days of at least 50 percent, in comparison to patients who underwent superficial acupuncture, who only experienced a reduction of 50 percent. Participants were required to keep a headache diary to keep track of their symptoms and the acute drugs they used. They visited the clinic once every four weeks.

Researchers observed a progressive reduction in the number of monthly headache days following treatment in those who had either genuine or superficial acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines: How It Works

Those participants who received authentic acupuncture, on the other hand, saw the number of headache days they experienced drop from 20 per month at the beginning of the study to 7 per month by the end of the study. For participants who got only superficial acupuncture throughout the investigation, the number of headache days reduced from 23 days per month at the start of the study to 12 days per month by the end of the study.

The treatment’s adverse effects were manageable and did not call for any additional medical attention.

“While this study did show 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,” said Li. “[T]here is a need for more research to determine the longer-term effectiveness of acupuncture and how it compares to other treatment options.” “The cost-effectiveness of the various treatment choices is another significant issue to consider when doing a comparison.”

Because the research was only carried out in a single hospital, the researchers are warning that the findings may not apply to all different kinds of people.

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