It takes personal experience dealing with intense headaches and migraines to know how deeply the condition can affect you live your life. While drugs and pain killers do help in reducing the intensity of a headache, their use is ridden with side-effects. Not surprisingly, people look to alternatives. Acupuncture is one such alternative.
Acupuncture has been used for long in the treatment and prevention of pain. Does it really work, though? Researchers at Cochrane Library, an independent organization that aims to help people make informed choices, have put together the results of several small studies that look at the role of acupuncture in providing relief from migraine and headaches. Their conclusion is that eight weeks of acupuncture are more effective than drugs in helping relieve pain in people suffering from headaches and migraines.
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The placebo appears to work, too
However, the researchers also make another interesting observation. It appears that sham acupuncture achieves the same results as the real thing. When sham acupuncture is administered – treatment that involves inserting needles at the correct points, but not deeply enough to do any good – it work more or less the same as real acupuncture. The results could be on account of a placebo effect – the treatment might have worked simply because the patients were psychologically primed and expected it to work.
The catch here is that similar placebo effects were not obtained with drugs. This makes researchers wonder if something really happens when needles are inserted into the body. It is likely that they trigger certain responses in the body that deal with pain.
According to Dr.Vitaly Napadow, a professor at Harvard Medical School who has been involved in several studies on brain changes in reaction to acupuncture, the treatment method causes perceptible changes to the way the nervous system functions. In his report, traditional and placebo acupuncture are seen to work on different areas of the brain. When traditional acupuncture is applied, it activates pathways involved in the production of endorphins, which relieve pain naturally. This doesn’t happen with the placebo treatment.
Are there risks involved in acupuncture?
Newspaper reports sometimes speak of patients reacting adversely to acupuncture – reactions that include dizzy spells and fainting. In some cases incorrectly applied acupuncture has gone so far as to result in punctured lungs. However, a German study has found that such cases are a rarity – only 2 in 2.2 million patients treated. Visiting qualified professionals such as at a clinic like PMIR can help make sure that such incidents never occur.
A new analysis, involving around 18,000 patients and medical practitioners from hospitals and universities in UK, US and Germany, has concluded that there is a significant difference between traditional acupressure and the placebo treatment. This analysis, which was published in Authoritative Archives of Internal Medicine Practitioners claims that acupuncture is twice as effective as the exercises and drugs prescribed by most medical practitioners.
Does it really work?
Major trials over the years past have tended to support the claim above. They have found acupuncture to work better than the traditional treatment. A research analysis involving 29 trials treating 17,922 patients has showed the difference between traditional and sham acupuncture to be statistically significant.
In the report, the average patient rated his pain level at 60 out of 100. Those who had sham acupuncture treatment reported their pain level dropping to 35 and those who had real acupuncture treatment reported their average pain level dropping to 30. While the difference is not huge, it is statistically significant.
It may be safe to conclude then that acupressure does work in relieving headaches and migraine. How that happens is not very well understood. However, if you settle on acupressure, ensure that you visit only a trained professional. This can help you stay safe from the dangers posed by unsterilized needles.