In one of the largest randomised studies to assess the effectiveness of the ancient Chinese treatment, scientists found it worked better than conventional treatments.
   
Dr Andrew Vickers, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told journalist on Sunday that he had concentrated his research on pain relief, particularly migraines.

"People using acupuncture had fewer headaches, less severe headaches and they used less health resources over the course of the following year."
   
Methodology

The scientists compared acupuncture plus standard treatment to normal therapy alone in 401 patients in England and Wales who suffered from headaches several days each week.

Their research is published online by the British Medical Journal. 
   

"For severely affected patients, acupuncture reduced the severity and the frequency of their headaches to make a real difference in their lives"

Dr Andrew Vickers,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York

Patients who had been assigned acupuncture plus standard treatment received up to 12 treatments over three months.
   
Initially there was not much difference between the two groups but at the end of the year-long trial the scientists noticed a big change.
   
Results

Patients receiving acupuncture had 22 fewer days of headaches per year, used 15% less medication, made 25% fewer visits to their family doctors and took fewer days off sick than the other group.
   
There were not many side effects and Vickers and his colleagues also found that the treatment was cost effective.
   
"For severely affected patients, acupuncture reduced the severity and the frequency of their headaches to make a real difference in their lives," Vickers said.
   
Acupuncture was first used in China about 2000 years ago.

It involves inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific points in the body and is one of the most popular forms of complementary medicine.
   
German researchers have also said it could help women undergoing fertility treatment to conceive.