Acupuncture effective for headaches

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of tension headaches, according to a Cochrane review.

Acupuncture was also effective for migraine prophylaxis — however sham acupuncture had the same effect.

The review found patients with frequent episodic or chronic tension headaches responded better to acupuncture than basic care for number of headache days and pain intensity. Of patients who received acupuncture, 47% reported at least a halving in the number of headache days. This compared with 16% of patients receiving basic care.

 

Migraine patients treated with acupuncture were found to have a higher response rate and fewer migraines after 3-4 months than those with no prophylactic treatment or with routine care only.

“True” acupuncture for tension headaches was found to have slightly better results than sham acupuncture, where the needles are placed at non-acupuncture points.

But for migraines there was no significant difference between the two types of acupuncture.

The authors suggested that sham acupuncture had direct physiological effects that acted on mechanisms relevant for migraine symptoms.

In other Cochrane reviews:

* Antenatal magnesium sulphate therapy given to women at risk of preterm birth substantially reduces the risk of cerebral palsy in their children. There is also a significant reduction in the rate of substantial gross motor dysfunction.

* All SSRIs were found to be highly effective in treating severe physical, functional and behavioural symptoms of severe premenstrual syndrome.

* Group therapy almost doubles the chances of quitting smoking compared with less intensive interventions such as self-help materials without face-to-face instruction and group support.

* Adding metformin to insulin therapy in adolescents with poorly controlled type 1 diabetes over three months lowers HbA1c levels compared with placebo plus insulin.

Cochrane Library

2009; Issue 1.