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Acupuncture For Tension Headaches

By Sonya Rosenbrock

(BHSc Acupuncture)

Recently there has been an increased interest in the use of acupuncture in the treatment of headaches. This interest in acupuncture treatment for headaches is most likely due to increase in the search for healthier alternative treatments to conventional methods, which mainly include the use over-the counter pain killer medication. Recent reports indicate that acupuncture is effective especially in the treatment of tension headaches. Tension Headahces are essentially defined as bilateral headache of a pressing or tightening quality, with mild to moderate intensity, which does not worsen with routine physical activity. Tension headahces occur without a known medical cause. Traditional treatment generally involves the use of over-the-counter pain killers, to treat this condition, which isn’t that bad when they are occuring infrequently, however in some individuals tension headaches can occur several times a month or even daily. Thus the use of pain killers is not such a healthy option. In a recent Chocrane Review by Linde, k et al (2009) they reviewed 11 trials which investigated whether acupuncture is effective in the prophylaxis of tension-type headache, the results were that those patients who received acupuncture had fewer headaches compared to the control group, “Forty-seven percent of patients receiving acupuncture reported a decrease in the number of headache days by at least 50%, compared to 16% of patients in the control groups.” And in the Trial by Melchart, D et al (2005) they also found that “The proportion of responders (at least 50% reduction in days with headache) was 46% in the acupuncture group…and 4% in the waiting list group.” Thus indicating form both these studies that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of tension-type headaches. Although it may not work in all individuals it is worth a try.

NICE (national institute for health and clinical excellence) in the UK in September 2012 brought out “clinical guideline 150” for doctors titled “Headaches: Diagnosis and Management of Headaches in Young People and Adults”, which recommends the use of acupuncture in the treatment of Tension headaches, they state that ‘a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5–8 weeks for the prophylactic treatment of chronic tension-type headache,” may be required.

The World Health Organisation also states that acupuncture has been proved through controlled clinical trials to be an effective treatment for headaches. (WHO, 2003 p23.) If conventional treatment is not working for your tension-type headache, or you would prefer not to rely on medication then now may be the time to consider alternative treatments like acupuncture.

References:

1.Linde, K et.al. “Acupuncture for tension-type Headahce (Review),” Cochrane Library, 2009, Issue 4.
2.Melchart, D et.al., “Acupuncture in Patients with Tension-type Headache: Randomised Controlled Trial,” BMJ 2005;331:376 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38512.405440.8F.
3.NICE “Headaches: Diagnosis and Management of Headaches in Young People and Adults”, NICE Clinical Guideline 150, Sep 2012. guidance.nice.org.uk/cg150
4.WHO “Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials” World Health Organization, 2003