Electroacupuncture for Tension-type Headache on Distal Acupoints Only: A Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Trial

Authors

  • C. C. L. Xue PhD,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • L. Dong MApplSc,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • B. Polus PhD,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • R. A. English MApplSc,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • Z. Zheng PhD,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • C. Da Costa PhD,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • C. G. Li PhD,

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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  • D. F. Story PhD

    1. RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group (Drs. Xue, Zheng, Li, and Story and Ms. Dong) and the Departments of Complementary Medicine (Dr. Polus) and Mathematics and Statistics (Dr. Da Costa), RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria; and from Tasmania (Mr. English); Australia.
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Address all correspondence to Dr. Charlie Changli Xue, The RMIT Chinese Medicine Research Group, Bundoora West Campus, RMIT University, PO Box 71, Bundoora, Victoria 3083, Australia.

Abstract

Objective.—To investigate the efficacy of electroacupuncture, applied to distal acupoints only, for tension-type headache.

Background.—Electroacupuncture is commonly used for tension-type headache, but when applied to distal acupoints only, evidence of its efficacy is lacking.

Design.—A randomized, single-blinded, sham-controlled, crossover clinical trial.

Methods.—The trial had 5 stages: baseline (2 weeks), phases I and II (each 4 weeks), washout period (2 weeks), and follow-up (3 months after phase II). Forty patients were randomly assigned to either group A or group B. Group A received real electroacupuncture during phase I, then sham electroacupuncture in phase II. Group B received the treatments in reverse order. Outcome measures were headache frequency and duration, pain intensity using a visual analog scale, mechanical pain threshold, headache disability, and sickness impact. Data were analyzed by univariate 2-way analysis of variance.

Results.—Thirty-seven patients completed the trial. There were no significant differences between the 2 groups at baseline. At the end of phase I, group A, but not group B, demonstrated significant improvement in mean (standard error of the mean [SEM]) headache frequency (3.0 per month [0.3] versus 12.0 per month [1.7]), duration (13.3 hours [3.5] versus 32.0 hours [6.2]), pain intensity (32.8 mm [4.1] versus 47.5 mm [2.7]), pain threshold (right side, 2.9 kg/second [0.1] versus 0.9 kg/second [0.1]; left side, 2.4 kg/second [0.1] versus 1.1 kg/second [0.1]), headache disability score (6.0 [1.0] versus 16.3 [1.6]), and sickness impact score (288.7 [48.0] versus 687.1 [77.2]). For each parameter, significant differences also were demonstrated for both groups between baseline and phase II, and baseline and follow-up. There were no significant differences between the groups at the end of follow-up (P > .05).

Conclusion.—Electroacupuncture to distal points alone is effective for short-term symptomatic relief of tension-type headache.

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