Clinical indications for acupuncture in chronic post-traumatic headache management

Mil Med. 2015 Feb;180(2):132-6. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00195.


Chronic post-traumatic headache (PTH) is one of the most common complaints after mild traumatic brain injury, yet evidence to date is insufficient to direct conventional treatment of headaches with this etiology. Therefore, the current guidelines recommend a symptomatic approach for the three patterns of PTHs: migraine-like, tension-like, and mixed symptomatology. To improve response rates and minimize the potential for polypharmacy, adverse effects, and risk of dependency, effective nonpharmacologic options should be employed to support faster and safer patient rehabilitation. Current evidence shows that acupuncture is at least as effective as drug therapy for migraine prophylaxis and neurovascular and tension-type headaches. Because of its safety, cost-effectiveness, and long-lasting benefits, adjunctive acupuncture should be offered to patients with chronic PTHs and may be a valuable primary treatment alternative for those with contraindications to pharmacotherapy. Future head-to-head, adequately powered, well-controlled randomized clinical trials are needed to investigate acupuncture efficacy for PTHs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / standards*
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Disease Management
  • Headache Disorders, Secondary / complications
  • Headache Disorders, Secondary / therapy
  • Humans
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / complications*
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / therapy*