Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating frequent episodic and chronic tension-type headaches. I 2 large trials, 48% of study participants had their headache frequency reduced when receiving acupuncture and standard care (pain-killers) when a tension headache occurred, compared to 17% who received standard care only. One study showed acupuncture effects can last up to 6 months
Tension-type Headaches “The available evidence suggests that a course of acupuncture consisting of at least six treatment sessions can be a valuable option for people with frequent tension-type headaches”. (“Cochrane Review: Acupuncture for Tension Type Headache, Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016 April 19). hppt://www.cochrane.org/CD007587/SYMPT_acupuncture-tension-type-headache
“The available evidence suggests that a course of acupuncture consisting of at least six treatments can be a valuable option for people with migraine” Acupuncture had slightly better results at reducing headache frequency than proven pharmacological options, with fewer side effects. The average migraine days suffered per month reduced by over 40%. These effects were achieved in roughly half of the study participants. http://cochrane.org/CD001218/SYMPT_acupuncture-preventing-migraine-attacks
The “results indicate that acupuncture represents certain clinical effect on knee osteoarthritis, which is superior compared with physiotherapy, and hint the possible roles of acupuncture in promoting cartilage repairing.” There were better pain, stiffness and physical function scores for the acupuncture group as compared to the physiotherapy group.
(“Influence of Acupuncture in Treating Knee Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Repairing”, Am J Transi Res, 2016; 8(9): 3995-4002). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040698
Nerve injury recovery
This study is related to the effects of acupuncture on peripheral neuropathy (PN). PN is the name for damage to nerves outside the spinal cord. This study showed that acupuncture along the nerve pathway as well as along the governing vessel (over the spine) can induce an environment that may allow the nerves to heal.
“electroacupuncture at Governor vessel acupoints has an immediate therapeutic effect on peripheral nerve injury”
“acupuncture significantly improves motor nerve conduction velocity and amplitude and also promotes functional nerve repair” (Neural Regeneration Research V10, no.1 (2015): 128). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4357096
Acupuncture also appears to accelerate recovery after the use of general anaesthesia.
(“Acupuncture Recovery After General Anesthesia: A Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial”, J Integr Med. 2015 Mar; 13(2): 99-104).
There is a “strong recommendation” for the use of acupuncture as a first line therapy for lower back pain that is not radiating down the leg (“Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians”, Annals of Internal Medicine, Clinical Guidelines, 4 April 2017). http://annals.org/aim/article/2603228/noninvasive-treatments-acute-subacute-chronic-low-back-pain-clinical-practice
Though if you do have pain radiating down the leg from sciatica, there is good news. This meta-analysis of multiple treatment types shows that acupuncture is more effective than opioids for sciatica (“Comparative Clinical Effectiveness of Management Strategies for Sciatica: Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis”, Spine J.2015 Jun 1; 15(6):1461-77). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24412033