According to the results of a study, acupuncture could help reduce the number of headaches per month in individuals suffering from chronic tension headaches.
Tension headaches are generally mild to moderate in intensity with a tightening or pressing sensation on both temples. Physical activity does not aggravate this type of headache and no nausea is experienced. Tension headaches are considered chronic if they occur at least 15 days a month.
This headache is one of the most common types of headaches. Individuals who experience many of these headaches each month may look for alternative options to medication. The study found that the average number of headache days per month is reduced with acupuncture in individuals who experience these disruptive and painful headache attacks.
The study consisted of 218 participants who were determined to have chronic tension headaches. The subjects had an average of 11 years of chronic tension headache and had an average of 22 headache days per month. They were randomly assigned to receive either real or superficial acupuncture. True acupuncture treatment requires placing and moving the acupuncture needle within the body to produce a tingling, numb, or heaviness known as a deqi sensation. The superficial treatments required less depth in the body to avoid experiencing this deqi sensation. Both groups received 2 or 3 weekly sessions, for a total of 20 sessions, for 2 months and were observed for an additional 6 months.
The primary measured result was a reduction of at least 50% in the number of headache days. All subjects visited the clinic every 4 weeks. They also used headache diaries to record their complaints and acute medication use.
At the conclusion of the study, 68% of individuals who received true acupuncture announced that the number of headache days would be reduced by at least 50% each month compared to 50% of individuals who received superficial acupuncture.
There was a gradual reduction in the number of headache days each month after treatment, in both individuals who received true acupuncture treatment and those who received superficial acupuncture treatment. For individuals who received true acupuncture, headache days were reduced from 20 days per month at the start of the study to 7 days per month according to the study conclusion. For subjects who received superficial acupuncture, monthly headache days were reduced from 23 days at the start of the study to 12 days after the end of the study.
The side effects of the acupuncture treatment were mild and did not require further treatment.
While this study has shown that headaches can be reduced with acupuncture, more studies are needed to establish acupuncture’s longer-term efficacy and comparison with other treatment options. Cost-effectiveness is another important factor to consider when comparing treatment options.
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