Dealing with headaches? A new study suggests acupuncture may help

July 6, 2022 – Dena Ressler, a retiree in her 60s, had a “splitting headache” that lasted 3 months. It is accompanied by coughing and shortness of breath. After excluding serious medical conditions, it was discovered that her headaches were related to stress.

“It went on, it was scary, and it didn’t go away,” she recalls.

< p>Ressler is a clarinetist whose band plays Klezmer music, a traditional genre of Ashkenazi Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. After weeks of pain, she decided to try acupuncture. And after 3 weeks of regular appointments, the headaches are gone and haven’t come back.

“Every once in a while, when I’m really tired, I feel the same pain in my head — maybe every two months — but very mild,” she said.

This is not the first time Ressler has used acupuncture. Decades ago, in her 30s, she was seriously injured and had limited mobility.

“It took me 18 months to get where I am now—almost fully functional,” she said. “Although I can’t ride my bike anymore, I still have to be careful not to do too much, but I can do yard work by myself and be able to play the clarinet again.”

Scientific Research Backs Acupuncture< /strong>

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, acupuncture may be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain, including migraines or tension-type headaches, as long as the acupuncturist has Experience, be trained, and use sterile needles.

Chinese researchers recently published the results of a new study of 218 patients with chronic tension-type headaches. Most people had headaches for 11 years, with an average of 21 headache days per month.

Patients were randomly divided into two groups. A person receives “real acupuncture”. Another group received more superficial “fake” acupuncture. Both groups underwent 20 courses of treatment over a 2-month period and were followed up for an additional 6 months.

There are more people in the real acupuncture group than in the acupuncture group. Headaches improved in the sham-acupuncture group: 68.2% of the patients in the real-acupuncture group experienced fewer headache days per month, compared with 48.1% in the sham group after 16 weeks. At 6 months, monthly headaches were consistently reduced in the real acupuncture group compared with the sham acupuncture group (68.2% and 50%, respectively).

“Tension-type headaches are one of the most common types of headaches, and people with frequent headaches may be looking for alternatives to medication,” said study author, Chinese Medicine in Chengdu, China University’s Dr. Ying Li said

Headache and women

“This is a very good study,” said Shi-Hong Loh, MD, acupuncturist With offices in Hoboken and Hackensack, NJ, it has its limitations.

The majority of people in the study were women (74.5 percent in the true acupuncture group), and Loh believes researchers haven’t paid enough attention to the role of gender in headaches and response to treatment.

“In my experience, 95 percent of the people who come to me for headaches are women,” said Loh, a former hematology and oncology unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken. Although he still works at St. Mary’s Hospital, he now has a private practice for acupuncture.

“Headaches in women are often related to life stress and are also severely affected by hormonal imbalances or changes, such as those that occur during menstruation,” he noted.

The acupuncture points the researchers chose were “ok, but not enough in my opinion, because women have acupuncture points on other sites,” said Low. “If I was treating a woman with a headache, I would use more acupuncture points than they would, and probably treat them differently than I would treat a man.”

How Acupuncture Treat headaches?

According to traditional Chinese medicine, headache is a form of qi stagnation in the body’s meridians. Acupuncture can unclog the stagnant parts and allow qi em> Free flow, Loh said.

Qi is a life force that travels through our body through pathways called meridians,” he said. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the meridians have 14 distinct but interconnected meridians, each of which is connected to a different organ. Blockage leads to stagnation, which is where the disease begins. Acupuncture at various points of these meridians will relieve the blockage and eventually the pain will be relieved.

This mechanism “cannot be understood or tested by Western medical techniques, but according to TCM, it is effective,” Loh said.

Acupuncture can also treat migraines

A recent study found that acupuncture can help with migraines. Researchers analyzed 15 studies involving more than 2,000 patients and found that 7 out of 10 studies showed lower frequency and intensity of headaches. Four studies found that acupuncture was as effective as Western medical methods, but with fewer side effects.

The researchers concluded: “Acupuncture can be used as an alternative or adjunct to medical therapy for migraine sufferers.”

Not “one size fits all”< /p>

Loh said researchers working with acupuncture for tension headaches had studied all of them using the same acupuncture points. “But according to [traditional Chinese medicine], headaches are not ‘one size fits all’. They manifest differently and require the use of different acupuncture points.”

For example, headaches usually involve the gallbladder or bladder meridians. If a person’s headache is on one side of the head, it usually involves the gallbladder meridian. So Loh then uses the acupuncture points associated with the gallbladder. But if the headache is in the front or back of the head, it is likely related to the bladder meridian.

Also, “Tension headaches tend to be front-to-back and can be related to poor posture and neck position at work, often with excessive computer use. So I recommend that people Pay attention to your posture at work,” he said. Stress “is a pervasive problem that can also cause headaches, so I also recommend stress management, not just acupuncture, as part of a treatment regimen.”

More on how acupuncture works, how Finding an acupuncturist, as well as finding an acupuncturist, can be found at the links below.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

National Accreditation Council for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

< strong>Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine