The October issue of Headache reports results of a controlled trial of acupuncture for chronic daily headache. Researchers set out to see if people with CDH may benefit from treatment other than meds because "medical management" alone is often ineffective. The results indicate that, yes, CDH patients who combine acupuncture and meds suffer less than those who just take meds.
In a six-week period, the 74 participants either underwent 10 acupuncture sessions and had medical management by a neurologist or they only received medical management. Three neurologists from the same headache clinic, all of whom have "extensive experience" treating headache, provide the medical management.
There was no "sham" acupuncture, so participants and researchers both knew which group each patient was in.
Measurements and Tools
Health-related quality of life was examined using the Headache Inventory Test. Participants also told researchers the frequency and severity of their headaches in the month before the study. General health was assessed with a standardized health survey. Depression was checked using the Beck Depression Inventory.
Participants who only had medical management did not show improvement. Compared to these patients, those who received medical management and acupuncture had and improvement of 3.0 points on the Headache Impact Test, as well as an increase of 8 or more points on the general health survey. Participants who received acupuncture were 3.7 times more likely to report less suffering from headaches at the end of the study.
Article authors do stress that participants with acupuncture report less suffering. They may actually have less pain, but they may also just perceive that they have less pain. Perception is reality. I doubt headache sufferers care if they actually have less pain or just think that they do. Either way they feel better.