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Acupuncture may bring some added pain relief to people with chronic headaches, a new study suggests.
The study, the largest to date on using acupuncture to ease headaches, adds to a conflicting body of evidence: Some research has suggested that adding acupuncture to standard headache medication brings patients additional pain relief; other studies, however, have found that "sham" acupuncture--using blunted needles that do not pierce the skin--is as effective as the real thing.
Those latter studies call into question the true effectiveness of acupuncture.
For the current study, published in the journal Cephalalgia, German researchers followed more than 15,000 adults with chronic headaches; all had been suffering from either migraine or tension-type headaches at least twice a month for one year or more. Of these patients, nearly 3,200 agreed to be randomly assigned to either have acupuncture added to their regular therapy or to stay with their usual care alone. The rest of the patients began on acupuncture treatment.
All of the acupuncture patients received up to 15 sessions over three months, and all study patients were reassessed after six months.