The use of acupuncture involves using very thin needles and inserting them through the skin at strategic points on your body. It is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine and is most commonly used to treat different pain conditions, but has also been used for other medical conditions and stress management.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force, known as chi or qi (chee). Western practitioners believe that acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscle, and connective tissue, stimulating the body’s natural painkillers.
Acupuncture for Chronic Tension Headaches
Tension-type headache is generally a mild to moderately painful condition that’s often described as feeling like a tight band around the head. A tension-type headache is the most common type of headache, yet its causes aren’t well understood.
In general, treatment includes the use of over-the-counter pain medications or practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as yoga or massage therapy.
In a recently published study, researchers from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine evaluated the use of acupuncture in the management of tension-type headaches. The study appears in the journal Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology journal.
For the study, the team conducted a randomized controlled trial in 218 participants who were diagnosed with chronic tension-type headaches. The participants in the treatment group received 20 sessions of acupuncture over 8 weeks.
The acupuncture treatments were standardized across participants, and each acupuncture site was needed to achieve deqi sensation, a sensation often described as aching, numbness or tingling, pressure or heaviness. Each session lasted 30 minutes. The control group received the same sessions but with superficial acupuncture, without the deqi sensation.
The study lasted 32 weeks and its main outcome was to find responders, defined as a participant who reported at least a 50% reduction in the monthly number of headache days.
They found that 68.2% of the participants in the treatment group were defined as responders at week 16 and lasted up to 32 weeks, compared to 48.1% in the superficial acupuncture group.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the treatment was effective for the prophylaxis of chronic tension headaches.
Hui Zheng, et al. Acupuncture for Patients With Chronic Tension-Type Headache: A Randomized Controlled Trial. 2022. Neurology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000200670
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