According to new research, if you suffer from headaches, acupuncture may be able to provide some relief. Headache is one of the most common health complaints, affecting more than 45 million Americans yearly.
While many over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat headaches, these medications often come with unwanted side effects. But, in some cases, acupuncture may be a viable alternative or complementary treatment option for those with chronic tension-type headaches.
Tension-type headaches include a tightening or pressing feeling on both sides of the head. These types of headaches do not generally get worse with physical activity and do not include nausea. They are considered chronic when they occur at least 15 days per month.
The study from Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chengdu, China, involved 218 people who were diagnosed with chronic tension-type headaches. On average, they had these types of headaches 22 days a month for 11 years.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive either superficial acupuncture or true acupuncture. True acupuncture involves placing and moving a needle in the body to achieve a degi sensation (tingling, numbness, or heaviness feeling). The superficial treatments had a lesser depth in the body to avoid achieving the degi sensation. Both groups of participants received two or three sessions per week for two months. They were then followed for an additional six months.
By the end of the study, 68% of the people receiving the true acupuncture reported at least a 50% reduction in the monthly number of headache days compared to 50% of people who received superficial acupuncture.
Overall, researchers found that the number of monthly headache days in both groups gradually decreased after treatment.
For those who received true acupuncture, the number of days with headaches decreased from 20 days per month at the beginning of the study to seven days per month by the end of the study. For those who received superficial acupuncture, headache days decreased from 23 days per month at the beginning 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,” said study author Ying Li, MD, Ph.D. “In comparing treatment options, cost-effectiveness is another important factor to evaluate.”
Living with chronic pain, no matter where in the body, can be debilitating, making it difficult to complete everyday tasks. It is defined as any pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks. It can be caused by various factors, including arthritis, injuries, and chronic health conditions. The pain can also lead to sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. But, as this study helps show, a variety of treatment options are available for pain management, including natural supplements, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
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