A single-blind, randomized, pilot study published in the March 2017 issue of Neurological Sciences sought to test the efficacy and safety of combining shiatsu massage and amitriptyline to treat refractory primary headaches.
Subjects were randomized into three groups: one receiving shiatsu plus amitriptyline, one receiving shiatsu alone, and one receiving amitriptyline alone. All three groups improved in terms of headache frequency, visual analogue scale score, and number of pain killers. However, there was no evidence found of a synergistic effect of combining shiatsu and amitriptyline.
In reducing the number of pain killers taken per month, shiatsu (alone or in combination) was superior to amitriptyline. No side effects were reported related to shiatsu treatment, while 19 percent of subjects reported adverse events attributable to amitriptyline.
The researchers conclude that shiatsu is a safe and potentially useful alternative approach for refractory headache, but stress that the findings should be interpreted cautiously due to the small sample size of the population included in the study (37 subjects).