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Traditional, Non Traditional Acupuncture Both Effective Against Headaches

January 21, 2009

A study found that traditional acupuncture is effective at treating migraines, but researchers also noticed that “fake” treatments worked nearly just as well.

Klaus Linde, who works at the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at the Technical University in Munich, led the 33 trial studies published in the Cochrane Review journal.

Linde and his colleagues found that the treatment worked even when the procedure was done non-traditionally ““ meaning that the needle was not inserted into so-called “energy points.”

“Much of the clinical benefit of acupuncture might be due to non-specific needling effects and powerful placebo effects, meaning selection of specific needle points may be less important than many practitioners have traditionally argued,” said Linde.

“Doctors need to know how long improvements associated with acupuncture will last and whether better trained acupuncturists really achieve better results than those with basic training only.”

The first study focused on mild to moderate but frequent ‘tension-type’ headaches, meanwhile the other study focused only on severe but less frequent migraines. Both studies combined included 33 trials, and a total of 6,736 patients.

After eight weeks of treatment, patients who received acupuncture fared better than those who were given only pain killers. But researchers noted that true acupuncture was actually slightly more effective than faked treatments in the tension headache study.

This realization suggested that the actual placement of needles may be less important than some experts believe.

“I think that, quite literally, many practitioners have missed the point in the past,” Dr Mike Cummings, medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society, told BBC News.

“We certainly don’t call what we do ‘sham’ acupuncture, as we believe there is growing evidence for a mechanism behind what we do.

“However, we still don’t fully understand what is happening when needles are inserted, although these reviews suggest that for certain conditions, it is effective.”

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