MOVING THE NEEDLE Acupuncture benefits patients suffering from tension headaches, say German researchers.

The ancient Chinese therapy that involves inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific sites cut headache rates by nearly half in a study of 270 people.

Lead researcher Wolfgang Weidenhammer, of the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at Technische Universitat in Munich, and his team compared traditional Chinese acupuncture, minimal acupuncture (where needles are inserted superficially) and no treatment.

The headache rate in patients given traditional treatment for eight weeks dropped by almost half, yielding seven fewer headache days in the four weeks after treatment. Patients with minimal acupuncture had a similar result. Control group members had 1.5 fewer headache days.

"The lack of significant differences between acupuncture and minimal acupuncture in our study indicates that point location and other aspects considered relevant for traditional Chinese acupuncture did not make a major difference," Weidenhammer said in a report in the British Medical Journal.

GOOD BACTERIA Consuming a mixture of "probiotic" bacteria reduces symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis that doesn't respond to the usual drugs, new research suggests.

Ulcerative colitis is a severe inflammatory disease of the colon. Complete colon removal is frequently performed to reduce symptoms and cancer risk.

The probiotic mixture, known as VSL#3, contains eight strains of well-known good bacteria. This study, in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, shows it can help treat the active phase of the disease.

-- From News Services