Is curing your headache with acupuncture all in the mind?
By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 8:26 PM on 21st January 2009
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.
Those who had needles incorrectly inserted benefited nearly as much as those who had proper acupuncture
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.