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Cephalalgia. 1999 Nov;19(9):779-86; discussion 765.

Acupuncture for recurrent headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

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Department of Internal Medicine II, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universit├Ąt, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Cephalalgia 2000 Oct;20(8):762-3.



To assess whether there is evidence that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of recurrent headaches.


Systematic review.


Randomized or quasi-randomized clinical trials comparing acupuncture with any type of control intervention for the treatment of recurrent headaches.


Electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Cochrane Field for Complementary Medicine, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register), personal communications and bibliographies.


Information on patients, interventions, methods, and results were extracted by at least two independent reviewers using a pretested form. A pooled estimate of the responder rate ratio (responder rate in treatment group/responder rate in control group) was calculated as a crude indicator of trial results as meta-analysis of more specific outcome data was impossible due to heterogeneity and insufficient reporting.


Twenty-two trials, including a total of 1042 patients (median 36, range 10-150), met the inclusion criteria. Fifteen trials were in migraine patients, six in tension-headache patients, and in one trial patients with various headaches were included. The majority of the 14 trials comparing true and sham acupuncture showed at least a trend in favor of true acupuncture. The pooled responder rate ratio was 1.53 (95% confidence interval 1.11 to 2.11). The eight trials comparing acupuncture and other treatment forms had contradictory results.


Overall, the existing evidence suggests that acupuncture has a role in the treatment of recurrent headaches. However, the quality and amount of evidence is not fully convincing. There is urgent need for well-planned, large-scale studies to assess effectiveness and efficiency of acupuncture under real life conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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