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    Acupuncture More Effective than Meds for Headaches

    By Jennifer Huddleston, staff writer     

    For the more than 45 million Americans who suffer from chronic headaches, relief may be in sight. Researchers at the Duke University Medical Center report that acupuncture is more effective than medication in reducing the intensity and incidence of chronic headaches. [1]

    The researchers analyzed studies of nearly 4,000 patients with migraines, tension headaches and other chronic headaches.
    [2] All studies included in the analysis were randomized, controlled trials that were conducted for more than four weeks and examined the use of acupuncture in adult patients with these conditions. [3]

    “We combed through the literature and conducted the most comprehensive review of available data done to date using only the most rigorously executed trials,” said Tong Joo Gan, M.D., lead researcher in the analysis and an anesthesiologist at Duke University.
    [4]

    The researchers found that while 62 percent of patients treated with acupuncture reported headache relief, just 45 percent of patients treated with medications reported the same.
    [5] Further, 53 percent of patients given real acupuncture reported pain relief, compared to 45 percent who received sham therapy in which needles were inserted into the skin in non-medical positions. [6]

    “Acupuncture is becoming a favorable option for a variety of purposes, ranging from enhancing fertility to decreasing post-operative pain, because people experience significantly fewer side effects and it can be less expensive than other options,” said Gan.
    [7]

    While acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years and the National Institutes of Health recommended it as a practical treatment for chronic headaches more than 10 years ago, Gan said “only recently has [it] started to become more accepted as an alternative or supplement to conventional therapies.”
    [8]

    Previous research by Gan has revealed that acupuncture can ease post-operative pain and the need for pain medications and can be as effective as medication in treating post-operative nausea and vomiting.
    [9] Other studies have found that acupuncture can also relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and alleviate nausea triggered by chemotherapy. [10]

    The findings of the analysis are published in the December 2008 edition of Anesthesia and Analgesia.


    [1] Duke Medicine. “Duke Study: Acupuncture Offers Better Headache Relief over Medication.” MyNC.com. Dec. 1, 2008.
    [2] Fox, Maggie. “Acupuncture Beats Aspirin for Chronic Headache.” Reuters. Dec. 1, 2008.
    [3] Duke Medicine. “Duke Study: Acupuncture Offers Better Headache Relief over Medication.” MyNC.com. Dec. 1, 2008.
    [4]  Ibid.
    [5]  Ibid.
    [6] Fox, Maggie. “Acupuncture Beats Aspirin for Chronic Headache.” Reuters. Dec. 1, 2008.
    [7]  Ibid.
    [8] Duke Medicine. “Duke Study: Acupuncture Offers Better Headache Relief over Medication.” MyNC.com. Dec. 1, 2008.
    [9]  Ibid.
    [10] Fox, Maggie. “Acupuncture Beats Aspirin for Chronic Headache.” Reuters. Dec. 1, 2008.



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