Is traditional acupuncture effective for chronic tension headaches and migraines?
As countless traditional acupuncturists can testify, chronic tension headaches and migraines are two of the most common conditions seen in clinic. This is probably not surprising as the World Health Organisation cite headaches as being the most common neurological condition. Experience shows that in many cases acupuncture certainly can be very effective at managing these painful conditions, or significantly reducing the intensity and frequency. Often people turn to traditional acupuncture for this type of problem as a last resort, when other treatment options, such as painkillers (both prescribed and over the counter) fail to address the issue. Indeed, it is quite interesting to note in fact, that the most common reason for recurring headaches is caused by the overuse of the very medication designed to effect a cure!
Headaches occur for as many different reasons as those who seek treatment for them. For those who experience their debilitating effects, they know only too well that a complex set of reasons are at play. Headaches are more commonly reported in women. This indicates there is a hormonal connection in some cases, particularly where migraines are concerned. Many women report that headaches become worse on or around their menstrual period, sometimes mid-cycle.
In an increasingly busy and stress-filled society though, it is often the chronic tension headaches which affect more of us in the west. It is certainly a common reason for seeking medical treatment, and indeed National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) recommend a course of acupuncture as a preventative measure for some patients who experience these symptoms.
The British Acupuncture Council support the use of acupuncture as an effective treatment for migraines, as seen in this short video. They also produce useful fact sheets on both headaches and migraines.
There are a number of quality studies which demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture for headaches. Click here for the Cochrane Review on acupuncture for chronic tension-type headaches, and a similar review for migraines.
Migraine Action are also a good source of information.
For anyone wondering about how traditional acupuncture is used to treat headaches, and maybe have concerns about where these acupuncture points are located, most cases respond well to those on hands/arms or feet/legs. Auricular acupuncture, ear points, can also be used as part of a treatment, and can be very effective.