Acupuncture is a useful, cost-effective treatment for patients who suffer from chronic headaches or migraine, American researchers said recently.

In one of the largest randomized studies to assess the effectiveness of the ancient Chinese treatment, scientists found it worked better than just conventional treatments alone.

“People using acupuncture had fewer headaches, less severe headaches and they used less health resources over the course of the following year,” Dr Andrew Vickers, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, said in an interview. The scientists compared acupuncture plus standard treatment to normal therapy alone in 401 patients in England and Wales who suffered from headaches several days each week.

British Medical Journal Research

Their research is published online by the British Medical Journal. Patients who had been assigned acupuncture plus standard treatment received up to 12 treatments over three months. Initially there was not much difference between the two groups but at the end of the year-long trial the scientist noticed a big change.

Patients receiving acupuncture had 22 fewer days of headaches per year, used 15 percent less medication, made 25 percent fewer visits to their family doctors and took fewer days off sick than the other group. There were not many side effects and Vickers and his colleagues also found that the treatment was cost effective. “For severely affected patients, acupuncture reduced the severity and the frequency of their headaches to make a real difference in their lives,” Vickers said.

Origins in China

Acupuncture was first used in China about 2,000 years ago, according to Vickers. It involves inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific points in the body. It is one of the most popular forms of complementary medicine and has been shown to relieve nausea and pain. German researchers have also said it could help women undergoing fertility treatment to conceive.

Source: Reuters