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Acupuncture Can Improve Quality of Life for People with TBI Related Headaches

Outline: Chinese acupuncture in treating patients with headaches due to previous traumatic brain injury show significant improvement in headache-related quality of life.

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A study comparing the effectiveness of usual care alone to usual care plus either auricular or traditional Chinese acupuncture in treating patients with headaches due to a previous traumatic brain injury (TBI) showed a significant improvement in headache-related quality of life (QoL) with the addition of acupuncture.

Auricular Acupuncture - (Auriculotherapy, auricular therapy, ear acupuncture, auriculoacupuncture) - is the stimulation of acupuncture points on the external ear surface for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions in other areas of the body. This form of alternative medicine is based on the idea that the ear is a microsystem which reflects the entire body, represented on the auricle, the outer portion of the ear.

Auricular acupuncture had a greater overall impact on headache-related QoL than did traditional Chinese acupuncture, according to the study published in Medical Acupuncture, a peer-reviewed journal from by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free for download on the Medical Acupuncture website (online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acu.2016.1183) until July 29, 2016.

In the article "A Randomized Exploratory Study to Evaluate Two Acupuncture Methods for the Treatment of Headaches Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury," Wayne Jonas, MD, and coauthors from Samueli Institute (Alexandria, VA), Integrative Healing, LLC (Hyattsville, MD), Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Bethesda, MD), and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Fort Belvoir, VA), conducted the study in previously deployed members of the U.S. military who had mild to moderate TBI and headaches. Chronic or recurrent headache is reported by 80% of Service members with TBI.

Participants in the 6-week study received usual care alone, or usual care plus either 10 auricular acupuncture sessions involving six to nine needled points and indwelling needles left in for up to three days, or 10 Traditional Chinese acupuncture sessions with placement of up to 22 needles on the limbs, head, and torso.

"Chronic concussion headaches are a clinical challenge. Acupuncture appears promising to avoid the opioid gateway for these patients," says Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH, Editor-in-Chief of Medical Acupuncture and Director, Director of the United States Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

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