Headaches are one of the most frequent reasons for medical treatment, in both general practice and neurology clinics. These occur in up to 80% of the UK adult population, and are more prevalent in women (65% of cases in one survey). Symptoms begin before the age of 10 years in 15% of people with chronic tension headaches but prevalence declines with age.
Tension type headache is the term used for infrequent and frequent episodic, as well as chronic, tension headaches. Tension headaches are characterised by pain that is typically mild or moderate in intensity, bilateral, and pressing or tightening in quality, but does not worsen with physical activity. There may be accompanying photophobia, but no nausea. The headaches are daily or very frequent, and last from minutes to days.
The aim of conventional treatment is to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of the headache, with minimal adverse effects from treatment. Prescribed and over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are taken to alleviate headaches.
Acupuncture for headaches
Most people think headaches are caused by not drinking enough water. This is true, but seldom the reason in most cases. In traditional Chinese medicine, headaches can be caused by several factors:
- Menstrual cycle (hormonal)
Acupuncture treatment is able to treat all types of headaches by reducing stress, boosting energy levels, aiding anaemia and regulating hormone levels in the body.
Evidence from the most up-to-date and highest quality systematic reviews that examined clinical trials where sham acupuncture was used showed that there are clinically relevant benefits of having traditional acupuncture treatment provided headache relief. Randomised controlled trials have found that the effects of acupuncture are better than painkillers for treating headaches intensity and frequency for long term.
Routine care should be given including lifestyle changes, for example:
- Eat 3 meals a day
- Sleep early and for around 8 hours
- Reduce exposure to stress