Acupuncture-like stimulation relieves chronic tension headache
CM NEWS – A group of scientists at the University of Aarhus of Denmark recently published a report of a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of acupuncture-like electrical stimulation on chronic tension-type headache. They have demonstrated that such practice might provide a safe and potentially analgesic-sparing therapy to tension headache.
What is tension-type headache? A tension headache is the most common headache, and yet it’s not well understood. A tension headache generally produces a diffuse, usually mild to moderate pain over your head. Many people liken the feeling to having a tight band around their head.
A tension headache may also cause pain in the back of your neck at the base of your skull. A tension headache can last from 30 minutes to an entire week. You may experience these headaches occasionally, or nearly all the time. If your headaches occur 15 or more days a month for several months, they’re considered chronic. Unfortunately, chronic tension headaches sometimes persist for years.
A tension headache may cause you to experience a dull, achy pain or sensation of tightness in your forehead or at the sides and back of your head. In its most extensive form, the pain feels like a hooded cape that drapes down over the shoulders. The headache is usually described as mild to moderately intense. The severity of the pain varies from one person to another, and from one headache to another in the same person. Many people report that the pain starts first thing in the morning or late in the day when work stress or conflict at home is anticipated.
In the study, 36 patients (18 men, 18 women) with chronic tension-type headache in accordance with the criteria of International headache Society were investigated. The patients were randomly assigned into 2 groups: a treatment group and a placebo group. Pain duration, pain intensity on a 0 to 10 cm visual analog scale, number of headache attacks, and use of medication were recorded in a diary for 2 weeks before treatment (baseline), early stage of treatment (Treat-1; 2 wk), late stage of treatment (Treat-2; 4 wk), and after the end of treatment (Post-1, Post-2, Post-3 corresponding to 2, 4, and 6-wk follow-up).
The patients also provided an overall evaluation of the treatment effect at each stage. Patients were taught how to use either an acupuncture-like electrical stimulator or a sham stimulator (identical but incapable of delivering an electric current) and then instructed to use the device at home.
Six acupoints, bilateral EX-HN5, GB 20, LI 4, were selected to be stimulated 3 minutes for each point, twice a day.
The results showed that the pain duration was shortened at Treat-1 and pain intensity was decreased at Treat-1 and Treat-2 compared with baseline. The overall evaluation of the 2 treatments indicated improvements in both the treatment and the placebo groups, but with no significant difference between the groups (P>0.061).
Despite the apparent improvement in both the treatment and placebo groups, a decrease in analgesic use was only observed in the treatment group. There was also a significant positive correlation between the reported intensity of the stimulus-evoked sensation and the evaluation of the effect of either active or placebo treatments (P=0.039).
In conclusion, the researchers said that the use of acupuncture-like electrical stimulation was not associated with significant adverse effects. These results indicate that acupuncture-like electrical stimulation is a safe and potentially analgesic-sparing therapy that may be considered as an adjunctive treatment for patients with chronic tension-type headache although the clinical effect on pain seems to be marginal in the present set-up.