Evidence based research shows the effectiveness for migraines and headache.
Two new systematic reviews have found that acupuncture therapy can provide patients who suffer from tension and migraine headache an alternative treatment for their pain.
Tension headaches are the most common headaches, and generally cause infrequent mild to moderate pain, but in a considerable number of patients, tension headaches are so frequent that they require treatment. Migraine headaches, on the other hand, can be disabling and severe. Accompanying symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.
Treatment for tension-type and migraine headaches typically consists of over-the-counter or prescription medications, respectively. The aim of the systematic reviews was to determine whether acupuncture is also an effective treatment option for these conditions.
The reviews appear in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.
Acupuncture involves penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles at specific points. It is one of the main medical treatments in traditional Chinese medicine, where it came into being more than 2,000 years ago.
Lead reviewer Klaus Linde of the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at the Technical University of Munich said the therapy is popular in his country.
"In Germany, acupuncture is frequently used for headache," he said. "Most private health insurances, in fact, reimburse for acupuncture, although they cover only about 10 percent of the population."
The practice has also gained popularity in the United States. A 2002 National Health Interview Survey of complementary and alternative medicine use found that about 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture in their lives, and an estimated 2.1 million had used acupuncture the previous year.
Brian Berman, M.D., director of the University