Acupuncture is effective for chronic tension-type headaches

Background and objectives: Whether acupuncture is effective for chronic tension-type headache is inconclusive. We aimed to examine the effectiveness of acupuncture with a follow-up period of 32 weeks.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial, and 218 participants who were diagnosed with chronic tension-type headache were recruited from June 2017 to September 2020. The participants in the intervention group received 20 sessions of true acupuncture over 8 weeks. The acupuncture treatments were standardized across participants, and each acupuncture site was needled to achieve deqi sensation. Each treatment session lasted 30 minutes.

The participants in the control group received the same sessions and treatment frequency of superficial acupuncture-defined as a type of sham control by avoiding deqi sensation at each acupuncture site. The main outcome was the responder rate at 16 weeks after randomization (week 16) and was followed up at week 32. A responder was defined as a participant who reported at least a 50% reduction in the monthly number of headache days.

Results: Our study included 218 participants (mean age: 43.1 years, mean disease duration: 130 months, monthly number of headache days: 21.5 days). The responder rate was 68.2% in the true acupuncture group (n=110) versus 48.1% in the superficial acupuncture group (n=108) at week 16 (odds ratio, 2.65; 95%CI, 1.5 to 4.77; p<0.001); and it was 68.2% in the true acupuncture group versus 50% in the superficial acupuncture group at week 32 (odds ratio, 2.4; 95%CI, 1.36 to 4.3; p<0.001).

The reduction in monthly number of headache days was 13.1±9.8 days in the true acupuncture group versus 8.8±9.6 days in the superficial acupuncture group at week 16 (mean difference, 4.3 days; 95%CI, 2.0 to 6.5; p<0.001), and the reduction was 14±10.5 days in the true acupuncture group versus 9.5±9.3 days in the superficial acupuncture group at week 32 (mean difference, 4.5 days; 95%CI, 2.1 to 6.8; p<0.001). Four mild adverse events were reported; three in the true acupuncture group versus one in the superficial acupuncture group.

Conclusion: The 8-week true acupuncture treatment was effective for the prophylaxis of chronic tension-type headache. 

Reference: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35732505/

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About Attilio

Doctor of Chinese medicine, acupuncture expert and author of My Fertility Guide and My Pregnancy Guide.

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