Acupuncture for headaches: NICE endorses acupuncture as an effective treatment for headaches

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that healthcare professionals should consider offering patients a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture for the prophylactic treatment of chronic headaches. Acupuncture was described as a good treatment option because it was associated with ‘fewer risks, fewer side-effects, and is also cost effective’.

Acupuncture for headaches – an effective alternative to medication

The guidelines published in September 2012 also show that one person in fifty people experiences headaches as a result of overusing painkillers. In fact overuse of medication can be a cause of migraine in many cases (see blogpost ‘Acupuncture for headaches: A sensible alternative to medication’)

Acupuncture for headaches: an effective treatment for tension type headaches and migraines.

Headache is one of the most frequent reasons for medical consultation, occurring in 80% of the UK adult population, and are more prevalent in women. Acupuncture is practiced in many different forms embracing a multiplicity of styles. Typically patients with the same diagnosis, such as tension type headaches or migraines would receive treatment that varied with their own individual presentation as well as the practitioner’s style, training and background. In my case I practice 5 element acupuncture where the patients constitutional type is assessed in line with one of the 5 elements to provide the diagnosis for treatment. The treatment is holistic, taking into account the particular stresses and strains and emotions that the patient may be experiencing. Along with this the nature of the headaches, in particular their location, frequency and any diurnal pattern of onset and duration would be taken into account along with the type of pain experienced and any associated symptoms, such as photophobia, visual distortion and nausea. From this information the practitioner would choose the appropriate points to needle, both local (around the head and neck) and distal (on the limbs). Needles are sometimes left in for 10 to 20 minutes and sometimes inserted and taken out in the same action, depending on the patient’s symptoms and needs.

Acupuncture for headaches:treating the whole person and helping them manage their stress

Along with the treatment the practitioner and the patient would work together to figure out ways to reduce any factors which may be triggering the headaches. These may include dietary recommendations or ways to alleviate stress. In one recent case where a patient complained of feeling unable to cope with the negative attitude of her boss, it was discussed in the first session that a visit to the HR department, when she was feeling stronger and less worn down by the headaches, could be beneficial in making her feel more empowered. The patient felt so much better after her first treatment that she saw the HR that following week, and started to feel she was more in control of her situation. The headaches were reduced from a daily occurrence to just having the early signs of a headache on the Sunday night before work. This did not develop into a full-blown headache. The patient is also focussing on improving their diet, particularly by having breakfast (porridge) before going into work. This is helping with the digestive complaints such as nausea which often accompanied the headaches, particularly in the morning. Alongside this the patient has experienced a great improvement in her sleep which was being disturbed by the headaches and anxiety about her work situation.

Are you interested in using acupuncture for your headaches?

if you are interested in trying acupuncture for headaches call Mark Butterworth on 07798 622 788 or email at markbutterworth@blueyonder.co.uk. Clinics are available in New Street and Harborne.