Why acupuncture is the best option for post-traumatic headaches?

US military physicians say it should be recommended to patients because it is:

    • effective,
    • safe,
    • cost-effective,
    • has long lasting benefits.

Dr Khusid of Deployment Health Clinical Centre (US Department of Defence) in her study says the current guidelines recommend a symptomatic approach for the three patterns of post traumatic headaches: migraine-like, tension-like, and mixed symptomatology.

Symptomatic approach, means that only the symptoms are treated/relieved, not addressing the root cause of the headaches.

Dr Khusid concludes that current evidence shows that acupuncture is effective for migraine prophylaxis and neurovascular and tension-type headaches. Because of its safety, cost-effectiveness, and long-lasting benefits, adjunctive acupuncture should be offered to patients with chronic post-traumatic headaches. It  may be a valuable treatment for patients with contraindications to pharmaceutical medications.

Journal reference article: Clinical Indications for Acupuncture in Chronic Post-Traumatic Headache Management

Painkillers often will make the headaches worse, a general practitioner from UK warns in the official advise from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

“Instead of taking these over-the-counter drugs to combat symptoms when they flare up, sufferers should try treatments that help prevent headaches in the first place – including acupuncture”

(Source: The Telegraph)

Lear more about how acupuncture helps headaches.

Acupuncture is more effective in prevention of chronic migraine headaches and is 10 times safer compared to topiramate treatment. These are the findings of a study published in the current issue of Cephalalgia, a journal for International Headache Society. The researchers compared acupuncture with topiramate. They call for acupuncture to be considered a treatment option for chronic migraine patients, even for those patients with medication overuse.

Studies have shown that addressing tension in the neck, which often accompanies migraines and headaches can be very helpful reducing the severity and frequency of the headaches. I can see in my practice that combining acupuncture with gentle mobilisation of the neck muscles is the most effective way to manage acute migraine and to prevent migraines. It will be interesting to see more studies looking into the combination of these treatments in the future.

Eating a chocolate can be painful experience when you suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder(TMD or TMJD). But it is only one of numerous symptoms TMJD can cause. Symptoms may include headaches or migraines, tooth pain, and others.

Journal of Orofacial Pain has published a systematic review on acupuncture for treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders.

The review included 19 randomized controlled trials. The results concluded that acupuncture was more effective for TMD symptoms than physical therapy. Acupuncture was also more effective than indomethacin plus vitamin B1 therapy, and a wait-list control. Acupuncture was safe with no serious adverse events reported by the studies.

Three of the studies, included in the review, compared acupuncture to a placebo. Researchers concluded acupuncture had a therapeutic effect beyond placebo.

For some very helpful and detailed explanation of temporomandibular joint visit Dr Paul Smedley’s website.

Image courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography
Ref: J Orofac Pain. 2010 Spring;24(2):152-62.

acupuncture-headache-782007Acupuncture is superior medication therapy for headaches. Acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture (fake acupuncture or placebo) in reducing headache intensity and frequency. More people respond to acupuncture than to medication. These are the conclusions of this massive systematic review, which included 31 studies on acupuncture for chronic headache, including migraine and tension-type headache. This high quality study was conducted by Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, USA and published in the current issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia.

A combination of physical exercise, relaxation training, and acupuncture provide long-lasting improvements for patients with chronic tension-type headaches. This is the conclusion of Swedish study published in the current issue of the journal Cephalalgia.

tension headachesFrequent use of pain medications can lead to chronic headaches. This is why it is important that analgesics are discontinued as a first step in treating tension headaches.

My comment:
I’ve treated lots of patients suffering from headaches over the years and have combined acupuncture, gentle manual therapy and sometimes exercise with most of the patients. It is comforting to know that what I find most effective in practice is being confirmed by the research.

More on acupuncture and headaches:
Acupuncture and migraines: a new conclusive study
Acupuncture pain relief
Acupuncture for headaches and neck pain
Laser acupuncture can make a significant difference for tension headache
Acupuncture Relieves Chronic Headache

According to a new study published in British Medical Journal, Acupuncture helps to relieve the chronic headaches, migraine in particular. Such are the conclusions of a clinical study, carried out in England and in Wales.

The study aimed at evaluating if acupuncture could be effective, in the case of the headaches, to be integrated into the free care of the system of public health in England.

The researchers followed 401 patients suffering from chronic headaches, mainly of migraines for 12 months.
These patients had been divided in two groups: one received up to 12 treatments of acupuncture for three months, while the others were treated by a usual medication and were used as a reference group.

Researches measured the gravity of the headaches among patients after 3 and 12 months. They also evaluated, the need to take drugs or to consult a doctor.

After 12 months, the results showed that the headaches had decreased twice more in the group treated by acupuncture that in the group which received a medication (reduction of 34% against 16%).

The patients, who belonged to the group treated by acupuncture, counted on average 22 days fewer headaches per year. Acupuncture group had used less drugs, made less medical visits and taken less sick leave.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture produces beneficial and persistent effects among patients suffering from chronic headaches, especially from migraines.

My comment:

In my experience acupuncture combined with gentle mobilisation of neck muscles is the most effective way to treat migraines. Sometimes the researchers are so busy determining what exactly worked and how, that they stop seeing the bigger picture. And in the case of migraine, a combination of therapies is significantly more effective than either therapy on its own. It is important to relax the neck muscles and acupuncture alone is not as effective. There was another study on migraines, where they injected botox into acupuncture points to relax the neck muscles and to stimulate the acupuncture points. The result was a long term relief. However, there are risks involved in using botox, not to mention it is very expensive.

More about acupuncture, neck pain and headache here

A study, published in the journal Headache, confirmed once more that acupuncture is really effective in relieving chronic headaches.

A course of 10 acupuncture treatments over a period of six weeks had made a difference in quality of life of adult headache sufferers participating in the study.

People who received acupuncture (and standard treatment) were 3.7 times more likely to report less suffering from headaches compared with those who received standard treatment alone .

CBS News :: Needles May Work Better Than Pills :: October 14, 2005

Acupuncture also has been reported to offer long term relief from headaches in a Swedish study .