Headache Pain Relief through

Inserting tiny acupuncture needles into certain points on the body to relieve chronic pain in other parts of the body? Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it?

Researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine have come to the conclusion that this actually works, at least for some patients. Their article follows.


Headaches affect millions of Americans. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches.

Tension-type headaches (or tension headaches)—characterized by pain or discomfort from tense or constricted muscles in the head, neck, or scalp—are one of the most common forms of headaches. In most patients, tension headaches occur infrequently and can be treated with over-the-counter pain medicine. However, some people experience these headaches several days per month, or even daily, and may benefit from other treatments.

A recent review published by the Cochrane Collaboration looked at the literature on acupuncture for tension headaches and analyzed the findings from 11 randomized trials with 2,317 participants that compared this alternative health treatment with a control or with a sham version.1

The results of the literature review found that of the 11 studies:

  • Two showed that patients who received acupuncture in addition to standard care had fewer headaches.
  • Five found slightly better effects in patients who received the true version of this alternative therapy compared with the sham version of it.
  • Three of the four trials that compared this treatment with physiotherapy, massage, or relaxation had methodological shortcomings. Their findings were difficult to interpret, but the insertion of these tiny needles at certain strategic point appeared to have slightly better results than these other therapies.

Overall, the researchers concluded that the use of these needles could be a valuable option for patients suffering from frequent tension headaches.


Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, et al. Acupunc. for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009;(1):CD007587.

This systematic review selected randomized trials with a post-randomization observation period of at least 8 weeks that compared the clinical effects of an acupuncture intervention with a control (treatment of acute headaches only or routine care), a sham needle intervention, or another intervention in patients with episodic or chronic tension-type headache. The 11 randomized controlled trials included in this review are Ahonen 1984; Carlsson 1990; Tavola 1992; White 1996; Wylie 1997; White 2000; Karst 2001; Melchart 2005; Söderberg 2006; Endres 2007; and Jena 2008.

To see NCCAM site...

As difficult as it has been to "pin down" the effectiveness of this ancient healing art, the science is encouraging. To see other physical conditions that have improved this way, journey over to the

"Therapy to Benefits" page.
Or read more about migraine vs. tension-type headaches here.

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