Is Curing Your Headache with Acupuncture All in the Mind? That's Better: Acupuncture Seems to Ease Headaches

Article excerpt

Byline: Fiona MacRae

MANY swear it is as powerful as any headache pill - but the benefits of acupuncture could be all in the mind.

Researchers have found a fake treatment is as good as the real thing at relieving the pain of headaches.

An analysis of dozens of studies involving almost 7,000 men and women showed the ancient Chinese art to be better than tablets at warding off migraines.

However, fake treatments, in which the needles were placed randomly on the skin, were just as effective at stopping migraines - and almost as good at preventing tension headaches.

The findings suggest many of the benefits of acupuncture are in the mind.

Researchers say it is likely patients benefit from the 'placebo effect', in which care, attention and the simple belief the treatment will work, lead to improvements in health.

The analysis, published in the respected Cochrane Library's science review, is far from the first to cast doubts on the validity of the multimillion-pound acupuncture industry.

For instance, recent research has shown that acupuncture does nothing to boost a woman's chances of having a baby through IVF - and may even cut her odds of becoming a mother.

However, other studies have proclaimed it to be effective.

In order to establish whether acupuncture helps prevent headaches, the German researchers combined the results of 33 clinical trials involving 6,736 patients.

The men and women were treated for at least eight weeks in order to evaluate acupuncture's ability to ease tension headaches or the more severe but less frequent migraines.

Some were treated with normal acupuncture, in which needles are inserted at specific 'energy points' in the skin. …