Recent clinical trial outcomes have demonstrated acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating headaches. These days, more and more people are turning to alternative therapies because they are safe and more natural compared to Western conventional modes of treatment. An overwhelming number of people may still take the medications prescribed to them by their doctor, but the side effects of these drugs have made them less popular for a growing number of people who suffer from headaches on a regular basis.
The problem with conventional medicine
It is a sad fact that Western pharmaceutical drugs are really not that effective in treating headaches. There are drugs that work well for migraine headaches and some drugs can help with tension headaches. There is one huge problem however with these medications and that problem is they can turn a migraine headache into a CDH or Chronic Daily Headache. This is a headache that is much more difficult to treat.
Unfortunately, the number of CDH is on the rise. CDH is diagnosed when a person experiences headaches on 15 or more days in a single month. Ironically, CDH is caused by a drug that was meant to relieve one specific type of headache. This particular dilemma has forced patients and physicians to search for other means of treatment.
A lot of headaches have certain triggers that include certain types of foods or lack of sleep to mention a few. The person usually is able to avoid these triggers although he/she may not be successful all the time. Therefore, if drugs are in the end counter-productive and factors that can set off headaches are unavoidable, what then can one do?
What is acupuncture?
Used as a form of treatment for over five millennia in China and other parts of East Asia, acupuncture is a form of self-healing procedure in which very fine needles are used and inserted into predetermined points on the body known as acupoints. The needles are left inserted in the acupoints for a certain amount of time.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the body has an energy force (known as Chi) that circulates all over the body. When this circulation or flow becomes unbalanced, sickness occurs. To restore the proper flow and balance of Chi, filamentous needles are inserted into designated acupoints to help treat the sickness.
Acupuncture has only started to become popular in the US during the 1970s in spite of the treatment’s thousands-of-years-old-existence.
Does Acupuncture Work?
A study released by the British Medical Journal showed that after being given acupuncture treatment for three months people who have lost time off work because of headaches took less sick days. A University of North Carolina study revealed that people with CDH experienced substantial improvements in their headaches.
Extra Benefits of Acupuncture
A couple of German studies showed that acupuncture helped improve migraine and headaches compared to people who were not treated with acupuncture. However, there really was no substantial difference in outcomes between placebo acupuncture and ‘real’ acupuncture. Placebo acupuncture treatment involved the insertion of needles into acupoints that were not known to generate any benefit. This result has baffled the researchers who conducted the study which made the workings of acupuncture even more mysterious than it already is.
The result of that study has not lessened in any way the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of any type of headaches. All the findings discussed in this article have encouraged more doctors to recommend acupuncture as an alternative headache treatment for their patients.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a licensed acupuncture physician and the medical director of BodaHealth in Vancouver, BC.