Acupuncture is promising remedy for chronic headache pain
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 5:14 AM
Dear Doctor K: I suffer from chronic tension headaches. Will acupuncture help?
Dear Reader: Acupuncture has long been used to treat headaches. But until recently, there hadn't been strong evidence to support its use for headache pain. Two large scientific reviews have changed that. One review found that acupuncture may help people with episodic or chronic tension headaches. The other review found that acupuncture may prevent migraine headaches as well as or better than medications.
According to traditional Chinese beliefs, acupuncture works by affecting the flow of energy, called "qi," through pathways that run through the body. The practitioner inserts very fine needles at specific points along these pathways.
Acupuncture has many variations. It typically involves four to 10 needles that are left in place for 10 to 30 minutes. A course of treatment may include six to 12 sessions. Most people report that acupuncture needles cause little or no pain.
Acupuncture is among the most promising of nontraditional headache therapies. The chief downsides are the cost and the time.
If you decide to try acupuncture, do your homework before choosing a practitioner, as licensing requirements vary from state to state. If possible, choose a therapist with a state license. If you live in a state that doesn't require licensing, seek out a practitioner certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
You may also want to get a referral from your doctor. (In any case, inform your doctor if you are going to try acupuncture.) And make sure that all needles are disposable or are properly sterilized before use.
Dear Readers: In my column of Dec. 19, I inadvertently spoke of achieving heart benefits by "lowering" HDL ("good") cholesterol. Of course, I meant by "raising" HDL cholesterol, as was clear in the rest of the column. I'm sorry for the lapse. - Doctor K
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106