In 2008 Duke University sent out a press release that stated, “Acupuncture is more effective than medication in reducing the severity and frequency of chronic headaches, according to a new analysis conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers.”
That is a pretty unequivocal statement from a prestigious institution. The National Institutes of Health recommended acupuncture as a viable treatment for chronic headaches over a decade ago and, while research in this field has increased, there have been conflicting reports about its efficacy.
“We combed through the literature and conducted the most comprehensive review of available data done to date using only the most rigorously-executed trials,” says Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, M.D., a Duke anesthesiologist who lead the analysis.
While everyone experiences an occasional headache, more than 45 million Americans (one in six) suffer from chronic headaches, 20 million of whom are women. Medication remains the mainstay of treatment with varying levels of success.
The Duke team looked at more than 30 studies (4000 patients) that compared traditional acupuncture to either medication or a control group who received sham acupuncture. Similar to traditional acupuncture, the sham therapy entails inserting needles into the skin but the acupuncturist avoids meridians or areas of the body that Chinese medicine teaches contains vital energy associated with achieving balance needed for good health.
The findings were published in the December 2008 issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia. “One of the barriers to treatment with acupuncture is getting people to understand that while needles are used it is not a painful experience,” Gan says. “It is a method for releasing your body’s own natural painkillers.”
Acupuncture therapy is becoming more available worldwide and many people begin experiencing relief following the first visit. Most patients require several treatments, especially if it has been a chronic condition, for more permanent relief.
If you are plagued by chronic migraines and headaches give acupuncture a try!
Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Dubowsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from University of Illinois in Chicago and her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. Dubowsky has researched and written articles on Chinese medicine and has given talks on the topic. She maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture Blog Chicago. Adventures in Chinese Medicine is her first book. You can find her at www.tcm007.com.
*Image of “woman” via Shutterstock