Fewer Headache Days with Acupuncture | MedPage Today Medpage Today

Acupuncture was a great way to reduce the incidence of chronic tension headaches (CTTH) in a randomized controlled trial conducted in China discovered.

Nearly two-thirds (68.2 percent) of patients suffering from CTTH who had acupuncture experienced at least 50% decrease in daily headache days during week 16, as compared to 48.1 percent of those who had only just superficial acupuncture (OR 2.65 1.65, 95 percent CI 1.5-4.77) according to Ying Li, MD, PhD, from Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China and his colleagues from Neurology.

At week 16, people who received acupuncture with a real needle had 13.1 less headache days per month, while those who received superficial acupuncture only had 8.8 less headache days per month (mean variance of 4.5 days 95 percent C.I. 2.1-6.8, P<0.001).

Despite the effects that was observed in the superficial acupuncture group the study did not show any effect. The study was “rigorous” and was an “really robust concept,” said Peter Wayne PhD, a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston who was not involved in the study.

“Any interaction with a healthcare professional, whether it’s a doctor or a surgeon, will have some therapeutic benefits,” Wayne told MedPage Today.

“People naturally desire improvement,” he added, noting that the participants in both groups were treated to “the practice of acupuncture as well as gentle stimulation.”

Some patients suffering from headaches are moving away from prescription medications, Wayne observed. “I believe that a lot of pain centers are already using acupuncture to treat headaches,” he pointed out. ” I believe this will further confirm the idea.”

Tension-type headaches caused by pressing and tightening of one side or the other of the head are typically treated with over-the-counter medications. Recent studies have suggested that acupuncture can help reduce the stress on tension headaches.

“Tension-type headaches are one of the most frequent kinds of headaches and those who suffer from many of these headaches might be seeking alternatives to medications,” Li said in an announcement. “Our research has found that acupuncture decreases the amount of days with headaches each month for patients struggling with these nagging and painful headaches.”

The study involved 218 patients suffering from CTTH with an average age of 43.1 and were taken by the Teaching Hospital of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine from June 2017 until September 2020. Participants had been suffering from CTTH over a period of 130 months, and experienced 21.5 episodes each month prior to the trial, in average.

Chronic headache is defined as having at least 15 headaches each month. Patients who had taken prophylactic medication during the three months preceding the study weren’t included. A third of participants used medications for acute headache at the time of baseline.

Every participant was assigned either authentic Acupuncture (n=110) as well as superficial Acupuncture (n=108). Participants in the true acupuncture category were needled to feel deqi-like sensations, leading to the sensation of numbness, tingling or heaviness sensation. The superficial acupuncture group was needled to prevent the deqi.

“We observed that deqi experience caused a difference in clinical effects even though the points for acupuncture were identical in the two groups, which could suggest that deqi experience could be an independent cause of the effect of acupuncture,” Li and colleagues wrote. “The mechanism by which deqi-sensation affects the effectiveness of acupuncture is not clear.”

The two groups received 20 sessions over eight weeks. Each treatment session lasted for 30 minutes. The most important outcome was response rate, which was which is defined as a minimum of 50% reduction in the number of monthly headache days at week 16, and follow-up up to week 32. Data on headaches were self-reported.

The effect was sustained for at minimum 8 months. In Week 32 the response rate was 68.2 percent in the real acupuncture group , and 50 percent within the superficial group (OR 2.4 3.0,95 percent C.I. 1.36-4.3, P<0.001).

In the period from week four to week 32 the percentage of patients who did not report any headache using a visual analog measurement increased between 0.91 percent to 30.91 percent in the genuine acupuncture group as well as from zero to 10.2 percent for the superficial group.

Four minor adverse events were observed and didn’t need intervention. One patient in the two groups experienced a subcutaneous hematomas, and two people from the acupuncture group with the most effective needle experienced discomfort at the site of needles.

Li and co-authors also noted that all of the participants were from one particular hospital, so the findings might not be comparable to other communities.


The study was financed through a grant from the Department of Science and Technology of Sichuan Province as well as the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Li and co-authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.